Thursday, 30 December 2010

Black Swan

One of the most amazing directors of the last decade Darren Aronofsky returns from The Wrestler with what has to be one of the best films I've seen this year.


Probably like many of you out there, I walked into this film not really knowing if I was going to like it. I love Aronofsky, even The Fountain which a lot of people hated I still hold in high esteem. His brave filmmaking defies convention, pushes boundaries and he always gets top performances from his cast. However, the trailer is somewhat misleading. Is it a thriller? A drama? Even a horror? But then, all these genres have filled his works in the past (apart from The Wrestler), it's hard to label it, which is all part of the magic. Even the Russian-inspired posters look amazing and will grace many a wall in the future of young trendies I'm sure. But the main point of issue however was really the fact it was about ballet and to be matter-of-fact about it, I know sweet FA about ballet. Fortunately, it doesn't matter and I have never been so enthralled by a film of this nature.

To put it simply, the story focuses on young Natalie Portman as Nina, a ballet dancer who is trying her hardest to win the Swan Queen part in a new vision of Swan Lake but she just cannot exhibit the passion of the Black Swan. Her slow, torturous journey into the dark realms of her psyche uncover more than just passion and soon we start to question reality as we travel alongside her.

Aronofsky does his typical European 70's 'amateur' 16mm style film-making that uses a lot of handicam, jump cuts, shaky, 'realistic' shots that make us feel like we are part of the action, that we are part of Portman's character, an extension of her conciousness. She is so innocent, so child-like that the idea that she has to play a dark, seductive monster through movement of her body alone seems unrealistic but Vincent Cassel as Thomas believes in her, he sees something, a darkness she keeps hidden. Like pretty much all of Aronofsky's work, the human body is an important factor in his films, whether it's sexual, violent, or through expression - everything counts, and in Black Swan, it's here in spades.

Portman plays rather an understated, muted yet remarkable performance as Nina gets to grip with her role. There's so much going on here, said in so little, that it's hard to express unless you've seen it. We all know that ballet dancers are known for having eating disorders, putting their body through unbearable pain, often resulting in a child-like appearance and Portman, at her thinnest and youngest, is going through all this to be perfect. She's an obsessive compulsive which doesn't help either and her child-like appearance is often reflected in her demeanour. She doesn't like talking about sex, she has an overbearing mother, no friends, works too hard and has a melancholiness that is hard to relate through words. We know she has a history of self-abuse and that her mother (who is creepy to say the least) is living her dancing dream through her daughter, that the other girls don't really like her but what is truly frightening is that by opening the pandora's box of restrained emotions, it's making her go insane. This isn't really a drama, it's a psychological horror that I think will make a lot of cinema-goers uncomfortable and shock them, but in a positive way.

Nina is taking over from Winona Ryder in the main Swan Lake part, but it's a position Ryder's character is somewhat reluctant to leave. As a result of this, Cassell tells us that by being self-destructive, by being that passionate, is what perfection is about, it is what makes Ryder's character such a joy to watch, and he constantly drives the point home in that she must lose control to really give a great performance, that you can spend all your time learning the moves but without that soul, it's meaningless. However, she is trying her best to stay in control of losing control because her world is crumbling around her, she is literally being corrupted in front of our very eyes.

Throughout all this, she feels pressure that Mila Kunis' character Lily is ready to jump into her shoes at any minute. She knows that Lily's care-free, easy, passionate attitude is something Cassell wants in the Black Swan performance, and in fact Lily soon becomes a representation of the dark side of Nina, and it's this dark side that is so tempting ...

I don't know what Swan Lake is really about, but there's enough information here to make you realise that the similarities with the play and the film aren't a coincidence. In fact, the whole film might as well be a performance of Swan Lake, the final temptation of the Black Swan being too irresistible. Many theories can be read into this, whether it's the obsessive compulsive nature going one step too far, whether Portman's character is mentally unstable, self-destructive, whether Lily exists, whether Nina is a figment of Lily's imagination or perhaps that it's in fact Nina's mother's vision and Nina doesn't exist at all. Whatever the film is truly about, it's exciting to watch, you are soon questioning everything and Portman's descent is intense, horrific and yet mesmerising to watch, I spent the whole time on edge and the physical horror of the nails, the picking and the scratching was enough to make me look away, and I have never looked away at anything before. The idea of mirrors, reflections, doppelgangers and this 'fake' image of ourselves, this other-worldly reality we see in front of the mirror each day, this dual nature like the Swan is also fascinating and something Aronofsky plays with expertly during the film. The sexuality of the film is also very strong and people will no doubt talk about the lesbian scenes for years to come, but her embrace of her dark nature, of her womanhood in fact, is something I hope no other woman had to go through. The crescendo of the piece is Swan Lake and is where you see Portman literally transform. She is almost intoxicated with everything she has strived to keep under control and for her to be perfect, for her to survive, she has to pretty much destroy herself.

Of course, many things can be read into this piece and I'd love to hear what other theories people have come up with. Whether I've missed anything stupidly clear out or if I'm completely missing the point entirely. But in any case, the acting was superb, the directing was flawless, the script inspiring and as a film it was perfect, it's hard to believe this and The Wrestler started off as an idea for one film! I can't hold this work of art in high enough esteem and can only hope that it takes over at the Oscars. It's dark, it's visceral, it's horrific, it's disturbing, it's glorious, it's the Black Swan.

Rating: 10/10

Tron: Legacy

After reviewing the Tron Legacy soundtrack and the Tron Evolution tie-in game, finally here is the review for Tron: Legacy - and it certainly is a Merry Christmas for one and all.


Before starting to delve into The Grid and it's inhabitants, I have to start by saying I've always been a huge Tron fan. As a kid, I would often pick up Tron again and again to watch over and over and has always had a special place in my heart, so when the initial concept footage for Tron 2 was released, you could imagine my excitement. Since then, I've been cautious not to get too over-excited. Sure the trailers look incredible, Daft Punk (whom I adore) were signed on to do the music, Jeff Bridges was going to do it, it was going to be 3D and also in IMAX. I had to bestill my beating heart that every time I get over-excited about a film, it very often disappoints and I didn't want that to happen here. Not to Tron. Please.

As readers know, I didn't rate the game very highly but Daft Punk's score got top marks (both reviews can be found on the right hand side or on Youtube's 'thewildboretv' channel) and once the film was released it got some very mixed reviews but I tried my best to keep out of it until I'd seen the final product myself, which was in centre seats at Waterloo's IMAX by the way.

If you don't know already, Tron Legacy takes place after the events of Tron (but not Tron 2.0 - the PC game for those non-geeks) where Kevin Flynn is taking advantage of being able to enter digital space by playing God and creating his own world. However, random beings, pieces of code or whatever they are, called ISO's have turned up and inside them could be the answers to the Universe, apparently. However, Flynn's 'supervisor' program Clu has a lot of ideas above his station and believes the ISO's to be imperfections and thus destroys them in The Purge (events of Tron Evolution). Kevin Flynn is banished and is hiding out with the beautiful Olivia Wilde (Quorra). Meanwhile, Sam Flynn, heir to his father's company, is busy causing havoc and being a rebel in the real world until he enters The Grid where luckily all his extreme sports hobbies come in good use.

Firstly the visuals are probably the best I've seen in anything, ever. It looks fucking cool and is absolutely incredible to witness. The first time we see the Tron world, it's unlike anything I've ever seen before. In this respect, the 3D-ness (is there a word for it?) works perfectly and it's the best use of 3D effects I've seen yet, and yes that's including Avatar. However, there is one massive flaw and I've seen it crop up time and time again in reviews - and that's the young Jeff Bridges as Clu. It simply doesn't work. It looks like Tom Hanks from The Polar Express or something, it is clearly animated and really stands out as he stands next to real people. It's a shame that technology has come leaps and bounds but actors don't have to worry, because recreating actual people won't be an issue for a while. It's a shame because it takes away from the rather dramatic scenes rather than adding to it.

The script is slightly flawed and they try to push in some key lines inbetween the set pieces but it's mainly because the pace is so incredibly fast. From disc wars to light cycle races to hand to hand combat the action is relentless and slows down in the right places to put it into context. If anything it's too textbook. Ever since Disney began, their writers were apparently handed out a guide to The Hero's Journey, a simple guide to Joseph Cambell's 'Hero Of A Thousand Faces', and it's essentially a template to creating an engaging storyline and one that can be traced as far back as Greek mythology and beyond. I know of it because I did a whole blooming thing on it in University. But Tron Legacy follows it point by point without missing a step which means that it might be simple but yet it's a familiar story, much like Star Wars or The Matrix but they had more depth. In fact, what Tron Legacy is missing, which is key, is the sense that it's part of a bigger thing and it feels way too self-contained without much knowledge of the actual geography of the place. To some this might seem indifferent, but subconsciously it works to give you a sense of realism and interaction. An example I often use is Alien, you often feel like you know the layout of the ship and it's a highly successful way of allowing your imagination fully integrate with the film by creating, arguably, boundaries. It's not saying you have to know where everything is, just that you realise that it's a part of the bigger picture. Unfortunately, there's not enough sense of what goes on inside The Grid and you're a bit confused as to where everything is. Why would they put the games arena right at the edge of the Outlands for instance? It sounds like nit-picking but I feel subconsciously people pick these things up, which is often why people find it hard to summarise why they did or didn't like a film. Pop psychology there folks or perhaps just slightly patronising.

You could argue that the whole point of The Grid in digital space is that it is infinite and these are programs, not living people, but I wanted there to be a bit more time in the 'city' part of the Tron Legacy world. What do these programs get up to? Do they couple off? Is it a working society? Why do they have to eat? Where is the food coming from? People can take it at face value but these are questions I found myself wanting to know the answers to after I left. Not in a geeky way of knowing every detail, more a way of wanting to understand the world more.

What's great about this storyline though is that a huge amount of history, myths and religion can be compared to it. Everything from the Nazi's, Cain and Abel, Darwinism, The New Testament, The Big Bang, Pat Pong, the Romans etc. could be related to this film and, in a way, the film itself is post-post-modern. A digital world within a digital world within the real world, where does the line end? You could read all sorts into it, that perhaps it is Flynn's purgatory, that it was Sam's dream, that it's the afterlife or perhaps it's just a simple story of a son searching for his father's love. Either way, it's not as superficial as most action films and, although it's not perfect, it's a great attempt to satisfy newcomers and fanboys alike.

The characters work quite nicely, Cillian Murphy makes a brief appearance (and one that will most definitely turn up in a sequel) as Ed Dillinger's son, the main villain in the 1982 Tron film, but it's a great glimpse into what will most certainly be a great sequel to come. Garrett Hedlund is remarkably perfect for Sam Flynn's role, it's never too cocky nor too naive, but does play up to the all-American rebel that tends to be popping up a lot (see Chris Pine in Star Trek as an example). It also made me laugh that his name is Sam and when asked how old he is, he states "27" - "Cor! Just like me! It's like I'm in the bloody film!" - I didn't say that, but I felt like saying it.

Jeff Bridges, I thought, did a great job as well. I had already read that people thought he was too much like The Dude and it had put some people off, however I honestly think it's only because he uses phrases such as 'man' and 'zen', which is a bit like not being able to see the forest for all the trees. People accustomed to the first film will know that Flynn was all about being laid-back and cool, it was pretty much what steered the first film, he had to be forced into action and indeed forced to mature which was the whole point of his journey in Tron. What people also forget is that he would have been a hippy child of the Seventies and seeing as he is trapped in The Grid for twenty odd years, he would not have been privy to cultural movements and therefore it might seem cheesy, but in fact works perfectly for the narrative. I was scared that Bridges would play his role too jolly, too happy-go-lucky like the original Flynn but fortunately, he has a lot more gravitas, probably not as much as I originally hoped (I wanted him to be a dark, angry, almost evil character - something to come perhaps?) but he is still clearly quite disturbed. His black and white grainy dreams looking more like a sketch, as if his dreams of the past are almost like out-of-date technology, which finally come back to colour as he is brought almost 'back to life' in a sense by the return of his son. People might think the journey is about Sam, but I'd argue it might be more about Kevin.

Bridges also plays Clu, who is very child-like and lashes out when he doesn't get his way. Just like in the first film, Kevin Flynn must conquer his immaturity, his fear, his naivety in order to continue, all of which is summed up in Clu. The real stand-out performance for me, for more than one reason is Olivia Wilde as Quorra, her wide-eyed innocence is as effective as her strength in such a powerful feminine role - she is clearly very sexual (the best leather-clad female on-screen since Pfiffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns) but it doesn't define her. Fellow House fans will already know that she is one of the most gorgeous women about at the moment and she certainly proves it here. Her cat-like appearance (and I bloody love cats) helps in her feline performance but she is more than just a love interest, which is respectable these days by itself. She will be on FHM's list next year if she isn't already. Is she?

Martin Sheen as a strange David Bowie character mixes up the seriousness with a bit of zaniness but the whole scene feels rather forced and I felt the club could have been a bit more impressive, even if it does have Daft Punk in it. The rest of the cast do look slightly like extras in a Tron version of The Warriors, or perhaps Emo-Rockers but for all the manliner, it does kind of work.

The whole world feels dark, gloomy, a constant storm hanging overhead, and slightly depressing, but in a good way, it's better than an iPod white future and Daft Punk's music over the top creates an amazing French soundscape that works perfectly into the film. It's further proof that as amazing as certain composers are, sometimes it's good to hand out work to more popular, respected musicians instead of a James Bond-esque title song that artists usually get dumped with. The film also has some light comic relief to stop people thinking it takes itself so seriously, it is after all a Disney film. But advert director Joseph Kosinki has done an incredible job and other gamers out there will recognise his work in the Gears Of War and Halo 3 adverts that did so well.

Watching this film in 3D and especially in IMAX was a treat for the eyes, but it wasn't a perfect spectacle, however it was perfect for me. Okay so it might be a little too close to Star Wars, the Jedi, Storm Troopers, Death Star and all that, but at least it knows it (you'll know what I mean when you see it). It's incredible to watch but is flawed in a few areas which means that speaking objectively I will have to mark it as such. But as a fanboy I'd definitely give a 10/10. May there be many more Tron's to come! I bloody loved it.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 13 December 2010

Boardwalk Empire Season 1


Scorsese teams up with The Sopranos crew to make what will be one of the defining moments in TV history. Think you know what you're favourite TV show ever is? Well, you might want to put that decision on hold for a bit.


Let me briefly tell you what Boardwalk Empire is about. The film takes place in Atlantic City during the Twenties prohibition era and local politician Nucky (Steve Buscemi)  rules the roost. However, as highly respected as he is, he is also a ruthless gangster and the main storyline is about the growing rivalry with New York.

People will see a lot of parallels between this and The Sopranos. There is the obvious reason that it was created by Sopranos writer Terence Winter and the main director is Sopranos vetaran Van Patten, but it's not just the technical aspects. The style is very subtle, the plot being just about what is not said rather than what is and this isn't taking anything away from the remarkable, clever, intelligent dialogue that takes place between the incredible characters. Visually, it's a delight, the city is a living, breathing creation that makes you forget it's some backlot in Brooklyn and the camerawork and photography is exquisite. Much like Mad Men, people will start talking about the fashion, the glamour and splendour of the era that will inevitably start coming through into our everyday lives and along with the music, everything fits perfectly, you can tell that HBO weren't scared of haemorrhaging money into this series with an $18 million pilot and a series cost of at least $50 million, but boy is it worth it.

It helps that Scorsese directed the pilot and produces the series, it's gangster element is always there but never shows its face too often and the intermittent violence makes it more shocking and more visceral with a lot of surprises that would catch me out almost all of the time. It's a series, much like Sopranos, that will never follow suit but isn't scared to do what it wants. There are moments in this series that will stay with you forever and I know that you will be discussing amongst other Boardwalk fans when the time comes. However, what I will say makes it remarkably more different from Sopranos and arguably better is not only the narratives (which I will come on to) but the characters. The acting, as a whole, I would say is a lot better than Sopranos and it makes a difference that many of these characters actually existed, including Nucky, Rathbone and obviously Al Capone played by the incredible Stephen Graham. The dialogue, look and style of the piece will engross you in the first place, but the stellar high class acting that is performed here will suck up a lot of awards inevitably coming it's way and even though the series takes place around Nucky, a lot of the other characters are given just as much, if not more, screen time. Which brings me on to the stories at hand.

The general metaphor here is that the characters, much like the city and well, everyone, might have a shining, sparkly exterior but underneath it's a vile cesspit of secrets. It's a place where innocence is lost and with Kelly Macdonald's Irish housewife Mrs. Schroeder being the main example of this, it is a dark place that you can leave your morals behind and where you have to have two faces to survive. Michael Pitt plays a war hero returning to a life of crime and now is a different man. Often his life of the French trenches will surface showing a disturbing portrayal of a man trying to get on with his life and yet at the same time hold on to his humanity while trying to rise up the ranks with his mate Al Capone. A lot of historical accuracy is taken here, with a touch of salt of course, and in Capone's case you can see him develop from hot-headed ruffian to a man that will be one of the most well-known gangsters of all time. My favourite character Richard Harrow played by Jack Huston is the physical manifestation of Michael Pitt's insecurities and the ugliness of war - a character that will stay with me forever. Two other stand out performances are Paz de la Huerta's Lucy who oozes sex appeal and her constant use of 'Daddy' makes you realise that she's just a little girl who wants male attention as well as Prohibition cop Michael Shannon who is seriously fucked in the head and is fast becoming the most watchable person on a TV screen - you cannot help but hold your breath every time he appears, he steals every scene. These characters are just the tip of the iceberg though with actors like Michael Williams (Omar from The Wire), Aleksa Palladino as Pitt's wife and Michael Stuhlbarg as the charasmatic New York leader Arnold Rothstein. However, what made me realise that this will probably be better than Sopranos is that, not only are the different narratives just as interesting as each other (and doesn't just follow Nucky which for the most part Sopranos does with Tony) but also the characters and acting feel less cartoon-like and more realistic, which is strange seeing as it is essentially a period piece. Proof of this is Greg Antonacci who plays Johnny Torio and was one of the New York gang working under Johnny Sack in Sopranos, he plays the part well but is completely out-acted by everyone around him and what might have worked in Sopranos, doesn't work here, it's a lot more of a serious affair.

I'm going to sacrifice going into too much detail here so that you guys experience the series without knowing what's happening but I'd be interested to see what people think. It deals with racism, politics, sexism, sexuality, war, violence and more without ever being too 'in-your-face' and it never slows down and you never know where it's going to go, it's just incredible.

Seeing as this hasn't hit UK shores yet until Sky releases Sky Atlantic showing HBO shows, this will definitely be it's flagship series and this'll be worth subscribing to for any cost. I can't tell you too much about the storylines without giving anything away but rest assured it's one of the best TV series out there and is definitely the best first season I've seen for anything ever. If it carries on with such high quality, it'll definitely be my favourite TV show ever - I cannot wait until next year to see the second series. I was going to do a video review for this, but it would be better just to show you a trailer as this series should not be taken lightly! It's an honour to watch such artists work.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Uncharted 3 Trailer!

Due to come out next year, here's a first look at Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception. Apparently the following is all using the in-game engine and with the film now been green-lit, surely 2011 is going to be the year of Drake! Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was perhaps the best game of 2009 and probably all time, so I can't wait to see this in action.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon

The new official trailer for Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon!

13


Sadly another foreign classic has been taken on by Hollywood and ripped apart. It's a shame as the cast is quite impressive: Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, Sam Riley, Jason Statham, David Zayas (looking a bit more menacing here), an awful 50 Cent and the incredible Michael Shannon (fast becoming one of my favourite actors). But with such an engaging story, a respectable cast and with the same director as the original French film, surely they're not taking any chances here? Spin. Aim. Not necessarily survive.

13 Tzameti was a great film for all the right reasons. The story, if you don't know, is about an underground game of Russian Roulette where people bet a lot of money on the outcome. In a weird sequence of events, a young man gets involved without knowing what it is and ends up having to play the game. The first film was a black and white, gritty, disturbing film that was full of suspense and everything that worked about it has sadly floundered in this remake.

There's a number of reasons why. Firstly, there is a multiple narrative about some of the other contestants, this means that you lose the personal attachment you have with Riley in the first place. It also means that due to the famous cast, you know who is going to survive and who isn't. The Hollywood sheen where it looks pretty, full of rich colours and takes place in a rich mansion means it loses all it's dirty, hostile and cold surroundings that made the original film feel so awkward to situate yourself in. The build-up to watching the bulb is about 1% of the tension of the original, you honestly didn't know what was going to happen in the first one but in this instance you feel like you do and the tension isn't there at all. Instead it feels like a stupid game where you don't care about anyone.

The stories of the other contestants detract from the mood and feel like a complete distraction. Rourke's storyline especially. His little story alongside the painfully unbearable 50 Cent is completely unjustified and a waste of time. Statham and Winstone's brotherly love hasn't been thought out and feels superfluous to say the least. Sam Riley does an okay job as the young innocent player, but his lack of conviction makes you feel like a voyeur rather than being involved. The actual game itself and the gambling techniques were also completely unclear and convoluted with the bulb, once being the main source of tension in the first film, rather being set as a preoccupation. The reason why they had a hanging bulb in the first room is that it was a tiny concrete room, so the only thing there was the bulb hanging down, casting judgement. Whereas here, you can't imagine that blowing each other's brains out around such rich tapestry is ideal for cleaning up.

The rest of the acting was awful and even Shannon, as another crazy character, is so OTT that you can't help but feel it's comical. The only saving grace about this film is the Russian Roulette itself but I implore you not to watch this film and go out of your way to watch the original instead, otherwise it will ruin the experience for you completely. You'd think since 2005 Babluani would have become a better director, sadly he hasn't and with The Legacy ( L'héritage ) being his only film made between the original and this one, perhaps he's just out of practise. A film that should never have been remade and is an example that Hollywood should sometimes just leave things alone instead of ruining the experience for everyone.

Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale


Finland isn't known for it's film exports, so here truly is a 'Rare Export' but should we return it? It's not exactly in the spirit of Christmas is it?

This film is rather a prequel to two short films that the director made in 2003 and 2005 (both I will stick at the end of this article) where Santa isn't the merry old fat man we've come to know and love but is rather a beast of the wild that is tamed and exported around the world. But deciding that some short films weren't enough, Jalmari Helander decides to make a feature film about his 'hunters' before the events of Rare Exports Inc. & Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions. I have to put this film into context because when viewing the film, not knowing much about it, it seemed very strange afterwards but now it kind of makes sense. However, it might be worth watching without seeing the videos included here, but it's your choice.

Either way, the story is about how some corporate diggers are excavating something from a mountain near a remote village in the snowy outdoors. But it is a young boy who works out what is buried beneath and is taking every precaution just in case, whether it's taping cardboard to your bum or carrying around a shotgun, he's not taking any chances. I read somewhere that this harks back to the kiddie films of the Eighties like The Goonies where the kids were always right and the adults were idiots, but this has much more of a horror element to it. In fact, it is very funny in different places for different reasons but always keeps a dark, sinister edge whether it's the weird wooden dolls, the crazy rich excavator or the creepy Santa they find, there's always a tinge of horror at all times.

The film is very well directed and, like many have said (mainly because of the snow) reminds people of The Thing, but all the set-up's are there and around the whole thing is the myth of Santa Claus (or Claws in this case). It makes for a very exciting, disturbing experience that is set around a time where people are supposed to get together and for someone who doesn't really enjoy Christmas, like myself, it makes a welcome distraction to all the 'niceness' of the Christmas season. The acting is, for the most part, very impressive and the end sequences with hundreds of naked old men running across the mountains is both funny and breathtaking at the same time. The film finds a great balance between horror, terror, humour and remembering that it shouldn't take itself too seriously, the gag is that it's about Santa after all.

I always found something creepy about a fat, old man going into children's houses at night and giving them presents, seeing if they've been 'naughty or nice' and this plays on people's insecurities especially at a time where paedophilia is all over the news these days. It also has a rather serious, dramatic edge with an obviously painful father/son relationship, a man who is frustrated with the world and a 'coming-of-age' element about sacrifice and becoming independent. It could also be seen as a war of male generations, the son against the father, and the father against his own father, which in this case is represented by Father Christmas, it would make sense seeing as there is no females in the whole film but rather a world of manly hunters where soppy things like Christmas have no place.

Overall, the film is enjoyable and the last five minutes is rather strange but makes sense once you see the short films. It might have a few plotholes but has been well thought out, perfectly directed and for something that could have so easily been one big joke, remains an impressive piece of work that the director clearly cared about. I recommend that you forget the usual Christmas ho-ho-Hell's and delve into a dark place where being naughty or nice is a life or death decision.

Rating: 8/10



Rare Exports Inc. Short Film



Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions

Monday, 6 December 2010

Megamind

Another animated 3D film comes along and better yet, it's about superheroes (groan) except the twist here is that it's from the point of view of the villain, so is it all bad?

The cast of this is a bit like the Who's Who of Frat Pack/Saturday Night Live etc. with Jonah Hill, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, David Cross and Ben Stiller (with Stiller co-producing as well) all comedy heavyweights and the added Hollywood status of Brad Pitt to boot but do they work? Yes they do. Very well in fact.

I've always wondered how much input stars have with the scripts, after all if you're paying for the talent you might as well let them run riot with the script. By doing so you would get such achievements such as Anchorman which got a lot from improvisation, and you can tell that 90% of all the funniest bits in this film clearly came from improv and are pretty much from Ferrell. People might love or hate him, but I personally think the guy is a genius and will be fondly remembered when we look back at comedy heroes. Sure he sells out quite often, but I think he often makes even the shittiest films funny. That dinner scene in Bewitched? Loved it. His coffee freak outs in Kicking & Screaming? More please. It's just a shame that he is confined to a script, but at least here where you'd think in a medium where improvisation would be least encouraged, he is often able to drop some great one liners. This isn't taking away anything from the script which is funny in it's own right, but if it wasn't for Ferrell's magic, I'd be afraid that it would be a dud.

But before I crawl completely all the way up his arse, I'll tell you what it's about. Megamind is a victim of circumstance and childhood bullying which leads him to use his powers for evil rather than good. This immediately puts him in a more accessible light, Catholics might not rate this film because he's not inherently evil, but the audience can see that he's merely misguided and relishes the attention he gets from performing dastardly tasks rather than nothing at all. He is, after all, an orphan and completely working class. His upper class nemesis is MetroMan (aka Brad Pitt) who is smarmy, slick and arrogant yet believes in justice. After an unfortunate mishap, Megamind is soon left with free reign over the city until he gets bored. In his boredom he creates Titan who is a petty, selfish stalker who uses his powers for bad, perhaps proving that some people are inherently evil after all. As well as all this, Megamind is falling in love but never does this get in the way of the story, in fact it helps steer it forward.

Pitt does his charming superhero to the tee, but never is he truly funny, but then I wasn't sure if he was supposed to be. Fey plays the strong female reporter well without any glitches but it's Cross, Hill and Ferrell that really make the show. Cross as Minion is more like a room-mate than a servant and Hill can easily make you feel disgusted yet amused at the same time, a trait he pulls off quite a bit. You could read Megamind's fight with Titan as Dr Frankenstein's battle with his own monster, a monster that is full of immaturity, selfishness, nihilism and essentially is a sociopath. In order to truly grow up, he must accept and conquer these inner demons which have formed into Titan. Of course this is reading into it a bit too much for a kids film, but all the best kids films have deeper adult undertones.

All in all, I enjoyed the story and the 3Dness of it was appealling but Will Ferrell gives a great bad guy performance that will make kids and adults both laugh. There's enough here as well for adults to go to without kids (like myself - cough) such as Ferrell's Brando performance from Superman, and Mark Twain's quote that rumours of his death have been 'greatly exaggerated' and stuff that the kids are too stupid to figure out, probably. Doogie Howser would have known though.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but it wasn't amazing, it had some really good, funny moments and looked great but lacked a real punch that makes it different from other animations. Though it is definitely one of the best released this year. You won't be disappointed if you made an effort to see it.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The X Factor

Here's what really happened in last Sunday's X Factor: Simon shagging One Direction, Louie up for raping Justin Bieber, Mary is actually a man who likes to play with balls and more. Enjoy!

Ricky Gervais IV: Science

Ricky Gervais returns to the stage with some more comedy tenuously linked to science. Why he looks like a strange lesbian on the front I have no idea, am I missing a pop culture reference...?

People give Gervais a lot of stick as he had no stand-up experience and on his first tour was selling out huge venues, people felt like he hadn't 'earned' his way up. However, how many people do we see on shitty TV panel shows that suddenly are selling out the O2? A lot.

Gervais got quite a lacklustre response for Fame but with Science, I feel like he is getting back on track. The trouble is, I still feel that he's finding his feet and is somewhat uncomfortable, constantly apologising for himself and being self-referential. It's clear he puts a lot of effort into his performance and material, which is good, but there isn't really a professional feel to it, instead it's like your mate chatting to you for a while. Which isn't a bad thing at all, his everyman connection is what makes him so appealable in the first place. Unfortunately it feels very, very short but his anecdotes and punchlines are amusing and I was properly laughing out loud in a lot of places.

Gervais goes into old territory such as religion, a great bit on a Noah children's book for instance, obese people and again pushes borders by just saying out loud what normal, white, Joe public males talk about. It's smartness contrasting to schoolyard humour is a great, successful mix but some of these jokes fall a bit flat and sometimes you get the impression that some of the jokes are just trying to be controversial rather than funny. Yet I'm slightly perturbed by some of his remarks 'kicking me off TV? Good luck with that', 'they were talking about controversy, so of course my name cropped up' - did it? I'm not sure these comments were supposed to be ironic, in fact I'd say he plays on his success and popularity a lot. However, I feel that Gervais is wearing a bit thin, not just physically (he's clearly lost weight but eeek... look at his arms!) but I can't help but think he's getting a bit old hat. Maybe I'm wrong?

He describes how people meet over humour and to see if you are like each other, fortunately everyone feels like they could get on with Gervais and his cheeky humour, including myself. This was funny, but I'd probably only watch it a couple of times and there's still life in the old dog yet, but this is far from perfect. Great for Gervais fans, but he's clearly not a professional stand-up.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Tron Evolution



Just before the world goes Tron crazy, we get a glimpse at Disney's game to coincide with the release. Taking place before the events of Tron Legacy, we delve into The Grid to see what all the fuss is about ...

I was apprehensive of this game for good reasons, the production company behind it had only really done Turok before this, which wasn't exactly inspiring confidence and Disney aren't known for their cutting edge computer games (Kingdom Hearts can suck my balls), so what to make of Tron Evolution?

Well let's set the scene, Flynn introduces us to the game by saying how the system he created has evolved, it's not just computer games now. Instead, it's expanded and there's not just basic programs bouncing around in there either - there's Iso's. These Iso's are entities that have formed on their own and serve no direct purpose and there's unrest in The Grid because of this. After an Iso has gone rogue and become a virus, Clu (who is Flynn's server manager and looks just like him) goes a bit mad and declares war on all Iso's - civil unrest ensues and the virus doesn't help either. So that's basically it.

What follows on from there I still don't know. You run into some people in the way and you have to get places but I'm never sure why and I'm afraid I lost interest not long after the start. This isn't just because of the story, it's for a number of reasons.

The first thing you'll notice is the graphics, it's very slick and the neon lights look great and you'll be immediately impressed. However, on closer inspection you realise it all looks rather the same and begins to hurt your eyes after a while. The close up's and anything that needs real texturing look terrible and the Tron universe is simple and quite barren which doesn't make for much of a sight.

The gameplay is also ridiculously behind-the-times. It plays like Prince of Persia where you hold a button to run up walls and basically do anything fancy, which means you're pressing that button for pretty much the whole game. You run up walls, jump about and do other parkour stuff that seems completely out of place and you'll spend about 80% of your time playing it, just moving from one platform to another. However, it's not as advanced as Uncharted or say, Enslaved, so you can fall off at any point, often don't know where you're supposed to be going or what you're supposed to be doing and will time and time again jump off wrong and end up dead. I must have died well over 200 - 300 times and some of the checkpoints are so stupidly placed that you'll find yourself having to kill a bunch of enemies just to make sure you get that one jump right again, and if you don't get the next one right? Back to kill those enemies again. I cannot tell you how frustrating it all is. The platform aspect of the game is tedious, backward, repetitive and a chore - it's no fun whatsoever.

So when you're not jumping about like a retard, what are you doing? Mostly fighting. Once again, this has been poorly conceived as you often don't know how hard an enemy is hitting and with their sodding flying discs you never know when you should be blocking or hitting. You don't feel any real metaphysical contact when you do hit (that should make sense to the gamers) so you just feel like you're swooshing about and hoping for the best. You have four different types of disc but there's no real grace to it, I often kept with the heavy disc and did an 'area attack' which saw me off pretty much everyone. You have to keep your energy levels up by running, much like a bag of crisps along a checkout counter, against an energy wall thing which gives you health. This often means that in crucial times, you'll often miss it or spend 20 seconds trying to get the run right meaning by then you're already dead and have to start it again. Also by using your 'special' discs, you use up power, so to up your power you hop over desks or little stumps in the ground - no joke. The whole thing is just bloody stupid.

So what about the cool stuff like the bikes? Well, like any good gamer knows, sometimes games have to sacrifice skill for spectacle. Take Call Of Duty's little bike or four wheel excursions, they are fast, furious, and take minimal skill to continue and would rather you enjoy it than have to do it again and again and again. Tron isn't like that. Instead, if you hit anything, or even touch the sides you lose a lot of health, which means instead of flooring it, you have to patiently and slowly make your way round bends and then suddenly know when to speed up at points to get over jumps. When other bikers engage you (there's only 3 I think in the entire game and they don't last longer than ten seconds each) then instead of trying to get them to crash into your light, you just have to outrace them. No 90 degree turns either. Disgraceful.

The tank sequences are also laughable and feel like a PS One game gone awry, it's simple shoot and move mechanics that are so lame it hurts. When you have to battle enemy ones without being in the comfort of your own tank, it takes a while to figure out how to kill them and if their turret so much as brushes you, you're dead. The 'game' sequence where you go up against other programs in gladiator type events is so short that if you blink you'll miss it and is stupidly easy. It feels like an afterthought. Apart from that, that's really it.

What annoys me the most is that because of the lights and the fact your character doesn't say anything it reminds me of Dead Space, which makes me even angrier for some reason, probably because the way it looks is it's only saving grace and it doesn't even stand up to a game released years ago. Overall, there have been worse games out there but this is shockingly bad. Apparently multiplayer mode is an important part, but I can't see it being much fun as the story campaign was infuriating. Don't touch this game, just leave it well alone and hope that one day someone can do Tron justice and, if you're planning to get this on PS Move then good luck because I wouldn't dare.

It's definitely taken a Tron for the worst, but looks pretty at times and, I guess it does have light cycles. It's either clearly been rushed for release or the producers are idiots.

Shame.

Rating: 3/10

Monday, 29 November 2010

Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen

Hong Kong legend Donnie Yen hits UK screens in the latest Kung-Fu action film to grace our shores, but is it really a Legend or should Chen Zhen just ... not return?

There is a very confusing background to this film. Firstly, this is a sequel to a TV series called Fist of Fury in Hong Kong, that series was a remake from the original Bruce Lee film. Now, Donnie Yen has been made to basically be Bruce Lee including Bruce Lee sounds, fashion and even a Green Hornet hero disguise. It's also directed by Andrew Lau who made Infernal Affairs, but isn't the Andy Lau who was in Infernal Affairs, that's someone else entirely. Understand? Good.

So what's it actually about then? Well, it's based on an ancient legend but yet this film is set before the second Sino-Japanese war in a Shanghai settlement where the British and the Japanese are battling it out with China in the middle. Chen Zhen has come back from fighting the Germans in France and taken the identity of one of his fallen comrades, why he needs to do this is never clear. The whole thing is then set in a club called Casablanca (yawn) which looks like a shoddy Boardwalk Empire (which if you still haven't tried to get hold of then you're an idiot, sorry) and it's all about people double crossing each other, about politics, revolution and stuff I have absolutely no idea about. I'm just not that clued up on Modern Chinese History I'm afraid, and this film didn't help either.

For those who know their Hong Kong cinema, there will be some friendly faces and the fact Andrew Lau is behind this will be enough to put some bums on seats but if you're looking for an action film, it might be best to look elsewhere. There aren't many fight scenes but when they do come up, they are quite good, but nothing remarkable. Yen's fighting is fast and seeing as he must be about 50 now I'm surprised he looks as incredible as he does. Yet his fighting looks comical and it seems as if they have sacrificed power for speed to make it look more impressive but instead it looks like about ten happy slaps a second, not enough to knock out these bad guys, and a lot of 'signature' moves are repeated. The final fight scene was also not that impressive and if you look at what Hong Kong was making 40 years back, it isn't even close to that type of skill.

So perhaps the story is enough to keep you hooked? Well, not really. It's so melodramatic and unsubtle that you can't help but laugh through half of it and the negative display of foreigners has apparently got a lot of Japanese upset, but you don't see the Germans complaining when Hollywood does a war film do you? Also, haven't the Chinese and Japanese always hated each other? I think it's time to move on guys. The British don't get a good rep either, but then the British guy is clearly not British so I don't mind too much.

Overall, I left the cinema without really knowing what was supposed to be going on but keeping with it enough to know who was supposed to be good and bad. The directing was OK and the scale was somewhat small as it felt like it had been made in a studio rather than drawing you into the scene. I can't say I was ever really bored but I was never entertained, it's a poor introduction for those who haven't seen the rich content that Hong Kong cinema provides and I do hope this film brings in more money into their industry but for smaller, more cutting-edge films rather than Hollywood-wannabe cheese-fests like this one.

Maybe see it on DVD if you're really that bothered but with an April cinema release date, don't expect it until Christmas 2011. Ambitious, but ultimately dull.

Rating: 3/10

Big River Man

One man against nature. Big River Man tells a tale of Martin Strel from Slovenia who is an endurance swimmer. However, he's not your typical athlete. The man is fat, a drunk and 53 years old and about to break the record and swim the entire length of the Amazon...

David Walliams is nothing compared to this man. A former gambler who started endurance swimming past 40, he's tackled the biggest rivers in the world. He might be a nobody in the celebrity world, but in Slovenia he's a big deal and this film, narrated by his son, is a portrait of a fascinating man on an incredible journey.

We start as his son paints us the picture. His father is a quiet, friendly, charming man who has already swam the Mississippi, the Danube and the Yangtze which includes some horrible footage of the pollution and dead bodies floating past the swimmer. He is constantly drunk and watching the man squirt red wine into his mouth from a water bottle while he's wading in water is a sight to behold, but yet he is accustomed to it. This Slovenian work hard/play hard lifestyle isn't a healthy one and yet he persists with swimming for days on end. He is a remarkable man, even if just for the fact that he's alive let alone having the stamina of a superhero. But yet he has his flaws ...

As the Amazon swim kicks off, we get a first-hand look at what makes the man tick - but his son is ever-present to fill in the rest. There's talk of his abusive childhood, his past job as a professional gambler, his love of America interspersed with footage of the swimming, but it is on his Amazonian trial that we see a human pushed to the absolute physical and mental limit.

Within a few days Martin is sunburnt and is drinking copious amounts of beer which is merely dehydrating him, which he refuses to believe. So he is given a rag to put over his face and a hat, making him look like the swimming elephant man instead of Martin and in a way, it is the first step to someone losing their humanity and becoming merely a vessel. The poor swimmer slowly goes insane, mirrored in his navigational partner and not only that but his heart is about to give out any second. He is hearing voices and soon remains absolutely silent, refusing to move if it isn't swimming and attaching car batteries to his head in a strange method to make himself sane. What starts as a jolly test of endurance, soon becomes a horrible nightmare.

As he nears the end, it becomes slightly uncomfortable to watch and once it ends you feel like Martin will never be the same and according to his son, he isn't. He has recurring dreams that he has to begin the swim again and the river soon picks him up and lets him fly over it. It's this sense of fighting your own demons in a path to God that is touched upon briefly but dismissed because it doesn't necessarily have to be God, but a certain inner peace which Martin is clearly aiming for, yet this underlying theme of Jesus does tend to crop up. His sense of achievement and near-martyrdom is supposed to give hope around the world yet falls unflatteringly on it's face once the talk shows soon lose interest. It's not just a struggle through a river, but through life and you might meet people along the way, it might have it's up's and downs and it might be dangerous but like this film, it was quite a journey.

Although I recommend this documentary, it was far from perfect. Some scenes, and especially some certain shots, looked forced and fake making me judge the whole piece in a cynical manner - something that is risky for such a project. There were also moments I didn't quite understand such as why his son wouldn't be allowed in an ambulance but the camera crew are, which added to the melodramatic effect it didn't need. I don't think it was very well shot either and the directing was formulaic and try-hard with lingering pointless shots that weren't interesting - whereas it would have done better concentrating on the content and the natural beauty of the area rather than trying to make it look too Hollywood. How many reflections of things off the water do I want to see in 90 minutes? Not one really, it's so cliche, which is a shame as the subject matter certainly wasn't. I feel anyone could have been there with a camera and still got out this film no matter who was behind it and for that it shows good foresight but not enough practical inspiration to see it through.

A great film about a great man, I'm sure your Dad would love it if he feels like he's getting on a bit.

Rating: 8/10


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Uncharted Movie News

It's official - Sony have cast Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake in a movie adaptation of the incredible PS3 Uncharted series.

As anyone knows, Wahlberg's perpetual worried look will make a lot of fans displeased. Look at his Max Payne game remake for instance. Nathan Fillion had expressed an interest in playing the role, which would have been a million times better but instead we're left to see an amazing game franchise get completely raped by a crap actor. Yes crap. Does anyone else agree? "Oh what about The Departed?" umm.. wasn't he just an angry the whole time? Isn't he just supposed to look angry all the time? I think it can be safely said that whatever films he does, he's not a bankable star by any means.

So what about the director? David O Russell will take the helm which is a surprise because he's done some very strange films and is known for well... not getting on with his cast. George Clooney smacked him about in Three Kings and there's that fight on YouTube he has with Lily Tomlin in I Heart Huckabees, and he's got The Fighter coming out with Wahlberg and Bale which might be a good impression of how much he can get out of Wahlberg's limited acting. Pesci and De Niro have even been rumoured to play Wahlberg's father and uncle - which will be strange. I'm just hoping it won't be another National Treasure ... I'd rather kill myself.

South Park Season 14

South Park's 14th season was a strange one. Do you remember the days it was about some strange people in a little town? Not anymore...

I'm a huge fan of South Park and I think it's one of the most creative, original social commentaries of our time - all wrapped up in a cartoon format for adults. However, if you look how it's evolved year by year, then you'd see that it has probably peaked a few seasons back. Instead, South Park seems to take pride in being a last-minute story about current affairs or social trends or celebrity news stories. A Comedy Central advert even advertised it as a 'Which celebrity will they take the mick out of next?' thing - and I thought it missed the point. It seems they might be a little preoccupied with creating controversy than focusing on good jokes and so they end up with this mixed bag which is the 14th season.

There's one good thing that has happened to South Park since it's first episode back in the day and that's it's pace. It no longer hangs around or holds back with some lame joke, it completely runs riot and does what it wants trying to cram in as much as possible - which for a show like this works a lot better I feel. Though I could be wrong.

The first episode Sexual Healing is about sex addictions and mainly Tiger Woods, it once again relies on celebrity whacking and just doesn't contain enough jokes to make it a worthwhile watch, it's a pretty bad start for a season and one that shows that they wanted to come out with something that included a big name so people would be like 'no they diddddn't!!' . The Tale Of Scrotie McBoogerballs is a good Butters episode where the boys write a disgusting book and blame it on Butters. It's after the boys read Catcher In The Rye which is supposed to be all controversial and they don't find it the least bit offensive. I find that a lot of books which try to be controversial often try too hard and seeing as it's usually written by someone who stays in their room all day, it's hard to imagine they have any idea what they are talking about. People are literally sick all over the world and this prat-fall visual gag is a good one, but again it fails to inspire a rewatch.

Medicinal Fried Chicken is a better episode with some good Randy moments (perhaps my favourite character) and some good Cartman / Scarface storylines and I think, much like The Simpsons producers realised with Homer, South Park fans love anything to do with Randy rather than the kids. Stan and Kyle have turned into little whiny moaners, especially Kyle and no-one really cares about Kenny that much. Cartman however, goes from strength to strength and it's good that they try and spend as much time on him as possible as he is the real star - alongside Randy of course.

You Have 0 Friends is to do with Facebook and it being essentially a monster of it's own. The great thing is Stan going into a Tron world inside Facebook and Randy, of course, is completely in love with the idea of social networking. The funny bits are basically the bits with the loner kid and the idea of friends as a currency in the online world, but again, compared to earlier episodes such as the one with Faith + 1, Fingerbang or so on, it really doesn't stand up. The next up was a two parter about celebrities, and mainly Tom Cruise getting their own back on South Park, it was also about the sudden shock news of showing Mohammad. These episodes did create a bit of a frenzy in the Muslim world but really it's just more celeb bashing with celebs they've used already anyway. So nothing new really.

The last episode of the first half of the season (phew) was Crippled Summer and apart from the 'Mimseyyyy!' line and a shark raping a kid, it was pretty crap. Why they ended the first half on this I'll never know. When it came back months later with Poor and Stupid, a show about NASCAR, there was some funny Cartman and Butters moments - "that's gay" - but it was quite boring. It's a Jersey Thing takes a look at the sudden hype surrounding shows like Jersey Shore, Housewives of New Jersey etc. and has one of the most shocking endings I've seen on a South Park yet as the Taliban fly some American Airline jets in to save the day and Bin Laden is commended as a hero. I don't think I saw that one coming.

Insheeption was another favourite and caused some outrage by copying jokes from well known comedy site College Humour (as documented in this blog). The episode which has a look at Mr Mackey's past is hilarious and the young Mackey is the best thing I'd seen in South Park in this season. The next three episodes returns to Cartman's Dark Knight Coon superhero, except he now has Coon and Friends (a homage to old TV series Spiderman and Friends), it's the classic gang with a new member Mintberry Crunch and you find out who Mysterion, as well as the others, while they try to save the world from BP's mistakes - "sorry". This 3 parter started well but soon got quite boring and the very end was a big anti-climax - which is a shame because there were a couple of good moments.

The final episode Creme Fraiche is another good Randy episode as he seems to get aroused by cooking while his wife has a strange new exercise machine. Once again, there were a few good moments, including a great Gordon Ramsay impression by Cartman but it didn't save the series.

Overall, it might even be worse than season 13, and I didn't hold that in high regard either. It's a shame but I think South Park needs to take a look at itself and maybe start spending more time writing the shows because it seems they are running out of ideas. Fortunately, it's nowhere near dying as yet and I still enjoy watching it, it just isn't the same. I'd just rather it stop now than turn into the self-parody that is The Simpsons, a show that is absolutely terrible these days and treats it's audience like a 5 year old child.

It's still better than The Simpsons and I'd say it's better than Family Guy, which is hit and miss for completely different reasons, and definitely not as smart or original (minus the College Humour thing). What I love most is last week, the creators are being sued for Butters doing the 'What What in The Butt' song, probably the last great hope before the show finally started turning into what it is now.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Daft Punk - Tron Legacy (OST)

Exclusive Daft Punk music video for "Derezzed" including some never-before-seen footage from Tron Legacy film. Keep reading underneath for the FULL review of the Tron Legacy Soundtrack by Daft Punk.



Daft Punk return with the soundtrack to the upcoming film Tron Legacy, but is this worth gracing your record collection with?

Firstly, this album has to be taken into context. It is, after all, a motion picture soundtrack, it's the score for Disney's Tron Legacy and isn't meant to be a pop album by any means. However, I have a lot of time for music scores - the obvious ones being Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams etc. but I find it extremely satisfying when producers bring in an outside source to give some remarkable results. Think of Air with The Virgin Suicides, the musical genius that is Kevin Shields with Lost In Translation, okay so they are both Sofia Coppola films but still, you get my point. So in this instance, Daft Punk score the new Tron film and it's surprisingly a mature effort from one of the most successful leading dance crossover artists around.

I wouldn't recommend this album if you are expecting a classic Daft Punk album full of riffs, hooks, and samples because it is nothing like they have ever done before. Instead, it takes you on a journey similar to that Vangelis took people on in Blade Runner, it's dark, epic sounds with a synth backbeat is perfect. Now, I used to absolutely love driving at night listening to Vangelis, especially with a cigarette in my hand. It made me feel like I was driving around in a dark, dystopian future in my own world (if you haven't done it, I'd recommend it) but I can't wait to do the same with this album, it creates a subtle yet chilling atmosphere that is perfect for a film score. In particular, half way through the album it picks up the beat slightly and turns into something you'd hear in a futuristic neon nightclub before the final comedown.

The French duo have clearly pulled out all the stops and taken this all incredibly seriously. You have to remember that some of these 22 tracks sound very similar and you'll be hard pushed to distinguish one from the other but it is supposed to be used for running underneath footage, not to release singles from. Also for all you foghorn fans who enjoyed the scores of the incredible Shutter Island and Inception, then there's quite a bit of that for you too. Surely foghorns are the sound of 2010? Not Cheryl Cole. Though they are quite similar perhaps. But the general feel, is that of a dark, post-apocalyptic Eighties B-Movie (which is kind of how Tron's first incarnation might have been regarded) brought up to date and produced to a high quality - which sounds like a perfect combo to me.

After opening song Overture pipes up, you already know you're in for an epic ride and when Jeff Bridges' voice comes in to describe The Grid, you see a world within computers, much like how you could describe Daft Punk's sound and 'then one day ... I got in'. The score then enters as you can almost picture yourself walking into this digital landscape they have created around you. The Son of Flynn has that typical French sound that runs throughout and when Recognizer kicks in, you feel the pace heighten as something dark seems to be gearing up which leads into the disturbing, sinister Armory. Arena then slowly builds up from silence into a Terminator-esque rhythm which feels like a tribal, battle sound that I'm guessing it wants to create. This sweeps nicely into Rinzler, as the battle drums turn more threatening and it builds up with The Game Has Changed and soon, those Inception style horns kick in with that robotic, digital underbelly that only Daft Punk can pull off successfully.

Outlands conjures up a feeling of mystery and intrigue that slows down for Adagio For TRON where a sadness must occur during the film, or something rather emotional as the violins kick in and then soon that dark, digital sound comes back in. This is an example of the entire album really - it builds an epic landscape where the digital sounds are a constant sinister threat and seem to be chasing you throughout, something that I imagine will be the same in the film where, after all, the technology is the enemy.

Nocturne again is a slower song that seems to end the more reflective part of the album and End Of Line comes in with some absolutely amazing synths that put the hairs up at the back of my neck which soon turns into Derezzed which I'm guessing will be remixed to fuck the next coming months and something I could see at any Daft Punk set. It's probably the stand out track of the entire piece and more immediately accessible than the other tracks.

Fall then enters the scene with what you can imagine to be a dramatic moment in the film with a sweeping score until Solar Sailer calms it back down. The horns get going again in Rectifier which clearly describes some strange danger ahead and then melts into Disc Wars (I think we know what scene this might be from). It takes a while to build up, but the French-electro duo once again clearly put their stamp on a track that could have easily sounded like any other big budget Hollywood score. C.L.U is very similar to the song before but with a tinge of violence (maybe it's the Psycho stabs?) before moving down some musical scales into those recognisable threatening horns and then the drum machine coming back in before an abrupt ending.

Arrival is a classic post-event comedown score which you can imagine where the hero is being reflective on the events that have just happened in C.L.U. Flynn Lives (is that a spoiler?!) is another comedown song that is both beautiful, epic and heroic as it builds back up to a fanfare of sorts.

TRON Legacy (End Titles) is again one of the stand out songs. It sounds like an 8-Bit computer game that you can imagine is worth sitting in the cinema afterwards listening to, because you could probably never hear it that loud again for a while. It's simple yet stylised sound is incredible, especially about 1:20 in when those epic synths come in to add that sweeping sound that makes you realise you've probably just watched an incredible action film (which I'm hoping I will). The Finale song you can tell is the big comedown after the preceding songs, and won't be too out of place in Lord of the Rings or something as it majestically rides over those digital beats leaving a satisfied feeling like every good Disney film should have.

One criticism would be that, unfortunately the songs don't really last too long, most being a couple of minutes or so, which means just as a song is gearing up it's over. However, it's the best background music you could have for anything in my opinion and they've done a fantastic job.

I'm not lying when I say this is one of the best score's to a film yet. I can already taste what kind of a film Tron Legacy will be, and if it's anything like the music Daft Punk have created, it's going to be one hell of a film. Maybe they can do us a favour and take this on tour? Maybe I'm revelling in the hype I'm creating, but I've rated this as a film score and NOT as a typical Daft Punk album - remember it's a different kettle of fish. The songs aren't created for the sole audio experience, but as a guide for what you see onscreen and if they can still impress and tell a story without visual aid, then it's got to be good. Which is why I'm giving this...

Rating: 9/10

Now where's my car keys and fags ...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Video Review




Where else will you see Michael Jackson attacking children? OJ as a KKK member? Sharks attacking zombies? In a review for Undead Nightmare of course! Click on the link at the right for the FULL write up with a more detailed analysis.

Friday, 12 November 2010

LA Noire Debut Trailer Released



Rockstar have released the debut trailer for upcoming game LA Noire and yes, it's a film noir type story set against LA - how could you guess? You might recognise some faces including Mad Men's Aaron Staton. As you can see, the facial movements is something that is far superior to what we're seeing in today's games so this looks likely to be one of the biggest games of next year. Will keep you updated as and when.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare DLC

Red Dead becomes Undead in this new DLC that successfully combines the Western genre with Horror so that shooting zombies never looked so cool

Rockstar have graced us with an odd add-on that takes the original game and completely changes it by adding zombies into the Wild West without taking itself too seriously. You start as John Marston again on his farm as his dead Uncle attacks his family and turns them into zombies. After tying them up, he vows to find a solution to help them and so the action begins.

Rockstar have taken advantage of the current Grindhouse trend and given this a B-movie cult horror genre feel by exploiting it in all the right places and being completely self-aware. The zombies move realistically and can only really be put down with a shot to the head and when you do shoot, instead of a typical gaming 'blow-up' head shot, instead only that part of the head is blown away giving the game a physicality not often achieved, especially with such fodder as Dead Rising 2. As you save town after town trying to uncover the truth, you bump into the characters from the original story making it a bit of a nostalgic trip as well. Similar to the original game, you have to help strangers along the way, find missing people and other small missions but essentially you're trying to find out what's behind all this.

As fun as it was to play, saving town after town by giving survivors ammunition (something that is scarce at first but builds up rather quickly) becomes a bit of a ball-ache. You have to go up to one survivor and then head to the others giving them ammo before finishing off the zombies. Trying to negotiate a way to get up to these survivors can be taxing to say the least, especially with zombies biting at your tails. However, once you've saved all the towns and done the main storyline (with a great 'few months later' epilogue) I'd imagine unless you're a completist you'd probably leave it there.

They also cleverly use the zombie factor as an excuse to include zombie animals as well as special 'Apocalypse' horses that if you catch, give you a certain special power. Though my Pestilence horse which was supposed to be impossible to kill, died almost as soon as I got it by falling off a cliff but yet I survived, so that was a bit of an anti-climax. However, there are Sasquatches, unicorns and more to find should you wish to do so. But as fun as it was, saving the towns occupied a lot of my time and soon became annoying. Also the final onslaught in a cave wasn't the big finale I expected it to be, instead it fell quite flat. It's also worth noting that you can still use your Red Eye slowing down time meaning you shouldn't really become too overwhelmed with zombies at any one time. The good thing is there is more than one type of undead, you have the normal ones, you have little fast spider like ones, spitting ones and big boulder-like ones. Therefore, it can keep the killing fresh by mixing it up with an assortment of the four. Weapons are also customised for zombie killing including a gun that shoots dead flesh back at them.

The game still sticks to it's open world sandbox roots, with certain Ranked missions, Treasure hunting and outfit collecting so there is something for everyone here. I couldn't justify spending enough time on it to complete it 100%, but doing the main storyline with bits afterward took about 8 hours, perhaps a bit more, and that's saving all the towns as well.


For a downloadable pack, this is great but I still felt they should have eased off saving all the towns constantly and concentrated more on doing missions. It's a nice, strange 'ending' as such with Red Dead Redemption and a great alternative to the Western feel of the original game. It's unique, brave and has successfully won over a lot of the audience, it's also due to come out on disc form in the near future as well. Rockstar have also announced that a Red Dead bundle will come out at the end of November with this and all the other DLC available in one big package. I recommend you buy this, especially if you loved Red Dead Redemption and it's a great DLC but again it's not perfect. Great idea, great gameplay, but felt like there could have been more to the story and saving all the towns became more of a chore as it went along. I'd love to see a DLC to this DLC (if that makes sense) which just opened it out a bit more, but for such content, depth and originality, it's one of the best DLC's out there. Go forth and enjoy - dead or undead.

DLC Rating: 9/10

Monday, 8 November 2010

Unstoppable

Tony Scott and Denzel Washington are back with yet another 'thriller' as an unmanned train is running along the tracks. Not exactly Trainspotting...

Why, oh why, oh why do I even bother going to see a Tony Scott film, they are unbelievably awful. The camera is all over the place, making me feel sick, his focus pulling, sweeping shots, intense close-ups and shaky-cam look unprofessional to say the least. This whole effort to create action through a flimsy script by making the audience feel like they are on a rollercoaster is, in essence, playing on people's stupidity. By drawing their attention away from what matters, it's like dealing with a thick child who has fallen over; he's so taken away with a cuddly toy that he forgets that his knee is bleeding everywhere - and watching this film was definitely painful.

The journey to even get this film made was painful. The overrated diva that is Denzel Washington refused to have his $20 million salary cut holding up production. Tony Scott even got his pay cut to $4 million, though God knows who would pay him so much. It's a recession remember? The entire budget for the film was $90 million, so you can see how much of that was spent on Denzel's pulling power. Finally the film got made and is 'inspired by true events'. This statement always makes me laugh. Isn't every creation inspired by true events? Based on true events is something different (and usually a lie in films anyway) but 'inspired' by true events? You could say that about a diary of birdwatching - which would probably be more interesting than this film.

In any case, a train is left accelerating by accident without anyone driving it and it's left to Washington and Pine to save the day. Denzel plays his classic 'everyday' hero role that he usually does, especially in Tony Scott films, and Chris Pine tries to keep some integrity in the film by giving off a clearly angry young man on his first day on the job. How unlucky for him then. There's some lacklustre back story which is to fill in the gaps where trains are moving because, as every commuter knows, train journeys are usually very boring. The two bond and it's supposed to show a coming together of generations, and a somewhat meagre attempt at how people are losing their jobs, which Denzel can obviously sympathise with seeing as they were unfairly offering him only $16 million - the cheap bastards, no wonder he was threatening to pull out.

They film the train like it's a monster on the rampage when it seems to be going at different speeds from shot to shot. It needs to be stopped before it goes round a rather nasty bend which is inconveniently located above a bunch of fuel tanks and is carrying a load of flammable liquid as well. Not ideal then - who decided to put the train track there? So yeah, they have to stop a train. When I came out, some people were saying how great it was and that it was 'just like that programme 24' - so I guess there's always a market - for idiots - who probably don't watch 24 anyway. I was also annoyed I lost a button on my coat which got caught on the drinks holder as I stood up. That didn't help.

There's some explosions and it has Rosario Dawson in it as a dressed down stressed out worker, but she's still hot - and for the ladies Chris Pine has his shirt off at the beginning of the film so maybe watch it for that and then leave. I would rather have not gone and then I'd still have that button. Stop the Unstoppable and just don't watch this film. It's shit.

Rating: 2/10