Thursday, 30 September 2010


It's a return to the Eighties with a sequel that is worthy of the first Predator, instead of the inner-city Predator 2, and let's not even get started on Aliens Vs Predator ...

Predators starts a little bit like a hardcore Lost. A bunch of strangers wind up in a jungle and there's something in the trees ... you can guess it's a bunch of Predators, well, and other things. Adrien Brody plays the main lead as a more lithe Schwarzenegger role whilst other human 'predators', soldiers, gangsters etc. come along with him. The idea is that they are game for Predators to hunt and each set piece is them trying to survive. It is a definite homage to the original Predator with quite an identical set up (especially the end), but like how Aliens did with Alien, there's just a whole bunch more of them.

I went into this movie with pretty low hopes, I love the original Predator but felt like it would take a lot to do this justice but I actually was quite impressed. It might not be original, scary or particularly well-made, but for an action film it's a fair cop.

Directed by Vacancy's Nimrod Antal, this is a good step forward into a more illustrious Hollywood career, he clearly enjoys building up tension with the added satisfying touch of some good pay-offs. The settings look lush and rich, with a vibrant palette that gives it that European feel Antal is used to, the monsters look good and it's pretty much action from start to finish. They've also tried to give the Predators a bit more character by giving them unique 'tribal' looks and forcing them into two groups. They've also thrown in some weird predator dogs, some strange creatures which I imagine are also being hunted and a very crazy Laurence Fishburne as a survivor who has been there a little too long.

As you can imagine, one by one they get killed off, but each character has been thought about and there is often some good group dynamics. Adrien Brody steals the show for me, which is strange seeing as I don't rate him as an actor, but his soulless dead eyes and gruff voice make him perfectly cast in his lone wolf persona. The others I could give or take, except Walton Goggins whom I love anyway and is perfect as the crazy prisoner.

There's not much of a story apart from the fact that they have to survive. For some reason, one of the predators is tied up and there is a predator vs predator match which is pretty cool, there's also a secret within one of the group which was a bit predictable but generally speaking I had a good time watching this film. Though it was a bit confusing at times such as why the predators were in groups, why one was tied up, what the other creatures were, I'm sure they did explain all this but it felt a little bit like trying to overcomplicate something for no reason but to make the audience think. But then, maybe that's a good thing?

Seeing as Predator hasn't had a fair cop since his 80s heyday, this returning to the roots of the beast is something that has enough action to keep you happy, a simple enough plot to keep you sustained and is a good first step to recreating what Aliens Vs Predator has ruined. This isn't a film at the top of it's game, but instead is running with the same blood as the original Predator, a monster movie in a jungle.

Don't expect anything that will take your breath away, but I've seen a lot worse.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Reputedly made for $15 000, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi film might be the future of cinema, but I would like a little more proof please...

Let me start by saying that I'm all for people being ballsy enough to go out there and just film something but I will have to judge it on the result of the final film and I have a lot of mixed feelings.

Let's get all the money stuff out the way. In case you don't know, director Gareth Edwards is a visual effects artist, which means he's bloody good at putting together some CG crap and has made a sci-fi, slightly scary film which is really about two people 'finding each other'. Apparently the crew consisted of just two people and anyone else in it was just there on the day, all locations are real and it was all shot, edited and created on what you can pick up in any store. Well, let's just say I'd like to see the receipts. Having gone into this knowing these facts, that in itself almost ruined the film for me as I was constantly laughing at how it could get made so cheap but remain how it is.

Firstly, let's forget about the CG, which in itself would take ages and even though it's really good, the aliens can look pretty crap sometimes, it's lucky they generally come out at night. But there are shots of cars getting crushed, a lot of people with guns, tanks everywhere, buildings completely demolished, lots of rubble and a lot of travelling via different ways. I cannot see how they were able to do this unless someone sat me through it because either these CG tanks, military, explosions etc were the most realistic effects I've seen or they were real, and then I still don't get it, surely travelling it all around would cost more than $15k in itself?

This idea of filming on such a budget is more of a marketing ploy than anything. I don't know the relationship it has with Vertigo films, but that company isn't exactly small so it's not as if they couldn't put more money into it. Also if you look at the crew list, there's a lot of people working on the sound, an extras casting director and more. I could be wrong though, maybe 90% of the work was done in the editing room and that the $15k was just how much the location shoot turned out to be. Either way, the whole 'how did they do this for 15k?' game ruined the experience slightly for me, which is a shame because it's not a great experience anyway.

Comparisons will undoubtedly be made to District 9 (infected zone, misunderstood aliens, amateur director) but really this is a road movie. I enjoy films where it's a small story in the grander scheme of things - even Spielberg knew this during War of The Worlds (where one bit is copied in this), and this is clearly less about the aliens and more about the personal journey of the two characters, Sam and Andrew.

The general story is that something from NASA crashed on it's way back to the States in Mexico or something and now these weird sea-alien-creatures have popped up wreaking havoc. A big publicist wants his daughter (Sam) to come back to the States and it's the responsibility of one of his photographers (Andrew) down there to escort her back, then things go a little wrong and they end up having to trek back through the 'infected zone' to reach the States.

The main problem is everything moves so slowly. The story is broken up by trying to put in the odd alien sighting or them watching TV footage of aliens but the whole time you're waiting for the action to get going, it's not until the final scene where you get some kind of pay-off, and it's the lamest pay-off ever. Even though this is about two people falling in love, it's also a social commentary on America. The way the country has closed itself in, how the characters say how strange it is being outside of it looking in compared to being inside, how the real threat is seemingly from the American military trying to kill the creatures using gas rather than the creatures themselves, the media's lust for violent images and the country's general xenophobia. What makes it strange is that the monsters are almost electrical and 'feed' off the televisions, again another statement on how America's media almost 'feeds' the monsters, perhaps thus being the monsters themselves.

Either way, the monsters aren't the real focus of the film, Sam and Andrew are generally well thought out characters, more so Andrew than Sam. Throughout the film Andrew is flirtatious, rude, abrupt and impatient, perhaps like a typical man but there is a more sensitive side to him that Sam can see. Sam, however, puts on a strong front but really she's having a difficult time with the idea of settling down and there's no real indication of why she's down there anyway or why she has hurt her hand, which perhaps leaves the audience to think up a better reason than one that time could have been wasted on in the film. I thought more time was spent exploring Andrew's character and that Sam might have needed some more fleshing out, but generally the idea of two people trying to survive through an alien war zone was creative and original. However, it perhaps could have got away with them trying to get through anything because in the end, the aliens didn't really matter but to try and make the film more interesting and scary, which it didn't do too well. The last shot is also reminiscent with what happens only moments before (I won't give it away) suggesting that at the end of the day, all living creatures are the same. What a lovely image. Kind of.

I liked the way the film looked, the directing wasn't too in-your-face leaving room for the CG to make a more lasting impression, which I'm guessing was the desired effect, but the landscapes, the sheer feeling of survival and script were all very positive. I just wished they did have more money to really give it that kick that it so desperately needs. Even though it's a brave attempt and, if true, it's absolutely commendable that it was made on such a low budget, which I'll give it an extra point for but it fails to leave any lasting impression rather than a wish that it had more bite because, in the end, it was really just a love story. Which a film called Monsters should perhaps not be called because I think a lot of horror/gore/sci-fi fans are going to walk out disappointed. I know I did.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Taking Of Pelham 123

Tony Scott and Denzel Washington team up again for this 2009 remake of people holding an underground train hostage. Will they get away with it or is it as easy as 123?

I know this film was released last year but I saw it on my Sky + Anytime and thought I'd comment on how bloody awful it is. Not only that but I wanted to use it as an example of how crap Tony Scott is as a director.

For those who don't know, Tony Scott is Ridley's brother and is better known for making stylised action films that would have been better suited in straight-to-video 90's flicks, but because of his name, the stars he's able to get and his budget, they are just on a grander scale. Okay, so the guy might have a couple of aces up his sleeves, he did do a good job on True Romance and people would crucify me for saying that the director of Top Gun is crap, but I have to say out of a great number of films he has made, law of averages means you got to have a couple of good ones right? His mid-shot, sleek, fast cuts with what seems to be exactly the same colour palette and a score that verges on embarrassing feels as if you are watching the action from afar, even when there are close-ups you never feel like you are there living in the action, but that you are a voyeur (which essentially you are) that has no investment in the characters. His cheesy, stale and repetitive directing can be seen a mile off; you know you're watching a Tony Scott film from the opening credits and you know it will be ridiculous. It's completely passive and uninspiring film-making that no-one should be proud of. The Taking Of Pelham 123 is no exception.

Denzel Washington plays a transport worker that has to deal with the Pelham 123 train that has suddenly stopped. What's happened is that Travolta has got some goons together and taken it over asking for a $10 million ransom or he starts killing people. After a while, Travolta's real motive becomes clear as the cops delve into his history but by then Denzel is thick into the action. Kind of.

The problem is that most of the film is either in the transport room or on the train which makes for quite a boring set-up, if the film was a slower, murkier affair then the tension and result would have been far greater. Instead Travolta's OTT hammy bad guy acting makes it feel like you're watching a cartoon. The man can't do a maniac, he couldn't really do it with Swordfish, he couldn't really do it in Face/Off and when he starts swearing and shooting people in this, it feels completely lame and unthreatening. Travolta can't just do any kind of role, he's not that kind of actor, he needs to learn the humility he picked up with Pulp Fiction as what was essentially a bumbling gangster role, he needs to be cast right, not like this.

But then, I feel like Denzel might perhaps be the most overrated actor in Hollywood. You could take him in any part, swap it with another part he's played and get the same result. The man is bland - to the point where he bores me. I can imagine he is just a boring person and I cannot see the appeal at all. So with two leading actors not being very good in a film directed by a poor director, I think you know what you will end up getting.

Even for a film with someone who shoots people indiscrimately and completely irresponsibly, with cars racing around to get the money dropped off in time and tempers flaring, it remains quite a boring heist. There's little nods to the political and social climate of last year, mainly the war and the economy, but really it's just drivvle to put it into the context of today to stop it being a carbon copy of the original.

Overall, it was 90 minutes of action that kept me watching, but really I wasn't bothered about what would happen. It felt lazy and OTT and ridiculous. But then, this is a Tony Scott film. His brother made Alien and Blade Runner don't you know.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Halo Reach

Bungie's last Halo game for Microsoft ends where it began by showing how the war with the Covenant started. But is it worth the wait?

Before I begin, I must admit I'm a casual Halo gamer. I've completed the first 3 (so I haven't done ODST or Halo Wars etc.)but I rarely play it online. I enjoy pissing about with all the vehicles and stuff, but I'm more of a Call of Duty man. I have done my fair share of online play with Halo 3 and some multiplayer fun with the first two but really, I want it to concentrate more on the 'campaigns' aka the story.

The events take place before the plot of the first Halo - this means no Master Chief etc. but instead you are part of a small elite team of Spartans entrusted with some important tasks during the first few moments of the Covenant attack. I have a few issues with this already. I enjoyed the way when I first picked up Halo that you're in the middle of something big already, it's when makers start filling in the gaps in our imaginations (see Star Wars Episodes 1-3 for instance) that I start getting annoyed. I don't want full detailed explanations on everything. However, saying this, they don't dwell too much on what's going on - instead it's a sheer instinct of survival and trying to evacuate as many people off the planet as possible. Baring in mind the events of Halo, you already know you're planet is fucked so it doesn't matter too much what they do. There are no surprises. At all. Which is probably why I don't rate this game too highly.

The problem is, this is just another Halo, it's the same kind of enemies, the same kind of weapons, the same kind of vehicles. Okay, so there are slightly different variations this time round, but essentially it's the same thing. In fact, I'd argue it's got somewhat worse; the interchangeable abilities you can pick up along the way range from jet packs to a shield to sprinting, which means that you won't be able to run if you have a pretty useless shield option. It's a unique touch to the game that wasn't need and feels forced as you make your way through the game. Unless you think haven't a jetpack is completely amazing for an entire game, you're not going to be that bothered.

The only other variations of the gameplay is some outer space shooting and a bit of flying around some skyscrapers. All of which is very nice but again, it all just mixes into the same Halo routine for me. I don't think I could actually tell you what happened in the first three games and this time round, for obvious reasons, there's no swarm; which are really the bits I enjoy the most.

I imagine the team would like to think this is their 'war film' piece. A torturous, no holds barred, all out apocalyptic piece and although it does have this feel of almost complete hopelessness, it instead feels completely impersonal and instead invokes a feeling of indifference. The idea of being in a team is short lived as you soon just go and do your own thing anyway (unless playing online), the team don't really interact with each other all that much and as the story progresses, it gets even darker. There might not be any surprises in the plot but I did enjoy where it went. However, there's little fleshing out of the characters and rolling from one battlefield to another just becomes second nature, so you soon don't care what's happening, you just want to start shooting again. The main insult is that the game was way too short and also didn't have much of a climax at all - the after-credits sequence made up for it slightly but really I felt cheated.

So with the same old gameplay then perhaps you have something pretty to look at right? Well, yes. The cut scenes look spectacular but there's not much change from Halo 3's graphics I would say. The sterile cities that you find yourself in also look dated and plain, as if it was for a PC game from the turn of the century. The views of the cities burning in the sky is a lovely touch but really, you're seeing the same thing you always see. There were also a few glitches I found such as getting into a lift and then suddenly dying. For no reason. Lame.

I also had issues with the saving as instead of starting from the exact moment you left it, unless you Save and Exit, you'll end up only able to begin at one of four or so big checkpoints during the level which is annoying - the little checkpoints just don't cut it. The whole set-up for the game has been designed for Halo perfectionists - those who want to be able to change every single possible factor within the game. Which brings me on to the online aspect.

The way so much energy has been pushed into the multiplayer options annoys me a lot. Sure it's great with customisable characters, new types of games ('Invasion' etc.), a voting system to choose what kind of game you might want to play and all these lovely, lovely options to make sure you get whatever multiplayer experience you need. Except, I'm not that bothered about playing Halo online. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it and will play it, but really I'm getting this game for it's story - and it just felt a bit half-arsed, it's instead concentrated on it's longevity as a multiplayer online paradise and for me, it just leaves the game without any depth and might as well be some kind of add-on rather than a game in it's own right.

I can't complain too much. I did enjoy the dark aspects of the campaign, the cut-scenes were ok, and I can tell I've only just scratched the surface of what it holds in terms of online gameplay, but really it's lost that initial thing that I loved about Halo - unique FPS with a gratifying story. I can't help but think it's turned into something it shouldn't have done, which might be why Bungie are leaving. I doubt I'll go back and play the campaign again, but I will definitely hold it in high regard as catering for the gaming expert but, if you were a newcomer for instance, this would more likely be more overwhelming with it's level of detailed options when really, you just wanna play the fucking game. Geeks rejoice, but those who like to move from game to game might think nothing more from this than an average FPS. When I read 10/10 5 star reviews, I wonder if Microsoft are paying them off or if they are scared they might upset a few people by saying a Halo game might actually be a bit shit. This was a big one for them and I feel short-changed - it just didn't reach out enough.

Rating: 7/10


Part 1 of 'The Night Chronicles' begins with this yarn about 5 people trapped in a lift and nowhere to go - then they start dying. M Night Shyamalan might have his name all over it, but really he just came up with the (pretty simple) story. In any case, with his films getting progressively worse and worse, is it time to call it a Night?

High concept films like this can sometimes be a blessing. If you can sum the film up in one sentance then you can concentrate on the other elements of the film, the look, the dialogue etc. without getting too bogged down in plot. However, seeing as it's plot that Shyamalan prides himself on, it has instead become his biggest downfall.

Let's be honest, his breakthrough The Sixth Sense was a generally good film. Mainly because of the acting, the sombre mood, the melancholy horror about it all and the well-known twist and hey, I didn't even mind Unbreakable. Sure it was a bit boring, it was predictable, it was slow, but it still kept a sadness that I enjoyed and also Bruce Willis as a reluctant hero is something I'll never get bored of; but it was still a disappointment. Signs I didn't see until recently, and it was awful but did quite well at the box office. The aliens looked terrible and it all felt like a massive joke. However, an invasion from the perspective of a small family in a small farm was an idea I enjoyed. I hadn't given up on him yet. The Village I enjoyed and I would argue might be his strongest film - yes the twist was predictable, the acting so-so and again by the end was a bit of a disappointment, but I enjoyed the first half or so. Then it really did go all wrong, The Lady In The Water might as well have been Shyamalan staring into a mirror and having a wank for 2 hours and The Happening was ludicrous at best. The Last Airbender? I haven't seen it but it's not done well. So after this brief recap, can he gain some more respect by taking a bit of a backseat and letting others do work under his name? Well ... no.

Devil is a tale of Satan taking an excursion to Earth and so, for laughs, chooses to enter the body of someone in a big office building. It's narrated by an idiot who seems to have a weirdo mum telling him horrible stories at night (Shyamalan?) and the main character is a cop who has a tragic past. Boo hoo. It's quite a slow moving film, which I imagine it has to be seeing as it is set mainly in a lift, but at times it's almost excruciating. The lights go off and something weird happens. Again and again. If it wasn't so supernatural this thing could actually be scary but unfortunately, it's mediocre at best.

There are some good aspects though. The shots inside the elevator are so close and intimidating that you feel as closed in as the characters are, the parts in the dark which rely completely on sound are fun, some shots are horrific enough to keep the gore-lovers happy and the general suspense works well, but not well enough that you're at the edge of your seat. You feel like it would make a good short story, or perhaps an episode of The Twilight Zone, but a 90 minute feature? It's definitely pushing it.

It just wasn't that scary, jumpy, or much of anything. The strange figure in the Devil trailer (which again is better than the film) makes the appearance just the once, apart from a lame 'face' in CCTV footage. Why would a scary devil be making lame faces in video footage? Then there's the Mexican security guard who is such a devout religious nut that it becomes absurd. It's trying its best to become a high-tension guessing game but instead it results in a stupid attempt to create horror from, basically, nothing.

Seeing as this is Part 1, you can't help but feel there must be a continuing theme that we will see happening. I imagine the suicide at the beginning (don't worry, it's almost the first thing you see) would probably appear in a later film, but I wish that he would have done perhaps a 2 and a half or three hour feature of his trilogy, Grindhouse style. But then maybe the other two will blow us out of the water? Well, I doubt it. Especially if there's a Lady in it.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 17 September 2010


It's one of the most successful sitcoms of all time and was the number one show in America for a huge amount of time. But after finally sitting down through all 9 seasons and watching each episode after another, how does it 'stand up'? (Jerry being a stand-up - get it?)

I have a funny relationship with Seinfeld. Not literally. But because whenever it was on in the past, I hated the cheesy studio laughter, the over-acting, just the ... Americaness of it all. Whenever it was on, I would try to watch it but Jerry's smug face, the way they dressed, Kramer's idiotic physical humour, it all just bugged me. So why return to it?

The reason why is because I'm such a huge Curb Your Enthusiasm fan, and because this is what Larry David is known for, and because the last season I just watched was about doing a reunion episode, I thought I would give it a go. It's hard to sum up the huge amounts of episodes in one article, but I just could not be naffed to write a review after each season seeing as there is no real arc to each one. They just kind of hop on from one to the other.

The original idea of the sitcom was showing Jerry's stand-up and how he gets his jokes from his everyday life. Simple and safe. But then it goes all wacky as it gets a bit post-modern as Jerry's character gets asked to do his own show. Then the stand up kind of takes a backseat as the sitcom element progresses. You soon see Jerry not as the Jerry Seinfeld in interviews etc. but as a caricature of himself, and it's a bit strange. However, that aside, it really does work and about 80-90% of the episodes are funnier than whats on TV right now and since ... ever. There are some dips in quality and some jokes get a bit far fetched as they occasionally lose the 'realism' and go for all out ridiculous but that's what makes it fun. All the characters progress, apart from Jerry really, which is strange but then even though it's Seinfeld on the box, it's Seinfeld's face all over the place, I'd argue the entire sitcom is really about George.

What makes the show really work is George, loosely based on Larry David himself, and his OTT outbursts, his general behaviour, his selfishness, his self-deprecating character is something completely unique and that I haven't seen before or since. Apart from Curb. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and even though you hate the little shit, there's part of you that empathises with him and his everyday struggles through life. He's not just a counterbalance for Jerry, he's a monster in his own right and is the real star of the show played exquisitely by Jason Alexander.

Elaine I could give or take, she was a good blokey girl that was still effeminate but was a serious bitch sometimes and, to be honest, was a bit of a slut as well. Her dress sense and hairstyles were pretty bad, but got better towards the end yet she was just something to keep the female audience members happy. She worked well, but often I couldn't stand her.

Kramer, played by Michael Richards (who since the 'nigger' remark seems to be slightly downbeat all the time - maybe he was always like that - maybe he's just troubled?) is a character that evolves the most during the 9 years of the series. He starts off as a bumbling hairy weird neighbour, to a slightly retarded goofball, to a wise almost Zen-like lover of life. At first I couldn't stand his stupid falls, ridiculous Three Stooges-like behaviour but he soon develops into a character that people love like they love a big dog. After a while, and after some semi-serious Kramer storylines, I found him both repetitive, almost tiring to watch and just a way to keep the energy up.

The other characters are played wonderfully and it has a complete set of celebrities who you will recognise from all kinds of shows, but my favourite auxiliary character is a close tie between Jerry Stiller as George's dad and Wayne Knight as Newman - both of which could carry a series by themselves. Everyone knows Jerry Stiller as Ben Stiller's father and it's no wonder his kid became the king of modern comedy, Jerry Stiller has got to be an absolute master at comedy and it shows. Newman is different in that, not only is he the fat guy, but he is genuinely the greatest B character in a sitcom. Every time he turns up you know you're going to get comedy gold and it's just a shame the series didn't continue for that alone. It's also the same for character Putty, better known as Joe from Family Guy these days - if you think Joe is funny, check him out in this.

Each episode is written masterfully with the wit and humour that can only come from Larry David and Seinfeld himself. Jerry might not be the most likeable character, in fact he's a watered down, more socially acceptable version of George really, but his holier than thou demeanour and the fact that he's also a bit of a cock just can't seem to tarnish the straight-cut, good guy, 'aw shucks' character that he seems to embellish so well. It's in fact what makes the show work, it's like Jerry is in on the joke with the audience, he knows it's all one big laugh and you can laugh with him, by being somewhat unprofessional he is instead bringing the audience onto the set with him. It's what is known as talent and the annoying thing about it is, is that he's just so fucking funny. All the jokes are ridiculously funny and I found myself almost crying at some stages - it really cracked me up.

However, I do have some issues with it. Funnily enough, it's the same problems I came into it with. Sometimes it can be really cheesy, and yet even though it deals with some controversial issues in a distasteful manner that you'd never think would be allowed on mainstream TV, it does occasionally feel like a forced sitcom. However, that could be because it has been going since 1989. It all can feel just a little bit too American and some jokes are a bit too easy, like the Kramer ones. Some episodes I also found quite boring and even though the highs were high, sometimes the lows were pretty low.

Overall, this is a must-see series that will outshine a lot of sitcoms out there and to believe that some of the material wound up to be prime-time mainstream TV is outrageous. I've a feeling some of that stuff would never get a prime-time airing now and especially over here. However, even though the jokes still ring true and are still fresh, the series can sometimes feel dated. It's a piece of work that continues to get better as it progresses but fails on the final episode. A strange reminiscence of all the characters in a weird court case that feels so forced, unnatural and awkward, that it ruins the whole experience and leaves the audience with a sour taste in its mouth. It's a disappointing end to such an incredible series that started as a cult and went mainstream with a huge 70 million people tuning in to the finale. Think about that, 70 million. However, I have to admit that, as a series, I like Curb Your Enthusiasm better - it's like all the George bits without the other distractions; therefore, even though it's great, it's not perfect.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Other Guys

Ferrell and McKay team up again in the hope of making another success like Anchorman, but what with these tame empty releases constantly being churned out, is there any point making an Anchorman 2 if it's going to be like their recent work?

I can't help but wonder if McKay and Ferrell just can't be bothered anymore. They've made their millions and now just want to make mediocre films that take in a mediocre box office in the hope that loads of people might love it. The Other Guys was never going to be the next Anchorman, but then it's not really much of anything.

Wahlberg plays a cop who has a complete geeky pathetic partner played by Ferrell. They soon wind up getting involved in a big scam revolving around Coogan and they ultimately have to work together to solve the case.

It's a by-the-numbers action/comedy that is more about the jokes than the plot. I couldn't actually tell you precisely what was going on in terms of the case but it's all a McGuffin anyway, the real story is about Ferrell's character standing up for himself and coming to terms with his past and Wahlberg showing his more sensitive side. That's it really.

Wahlberg and Ferrell work quite well as a rather odd couple but it gets very tiring very fast with the overmacho Mark and then the wimpy Will. The Rock and Samuel L Jackson don't get that much of a look in to even really comment on and the real shining star of the piece is really Michael Keaton. Some bits made me laugh out loud but really this is a no-brainer, passive comedy for Ferrell fans who are waiting for something better. Even Eva Mendes couldn't save this from being little more than a money guzzling McKay machine.

Don't get me wrong, some bits did make me crack up, but really I'd rather spend an hour and a half on Funny Or than watching this. At least I'd get more than a handful of jokes without the bother of concentrating on a story I don't care about or even understand. Wait until it comes out on DVD and even then, see if there's something better on the shelves.

Rating: 5/10

Mafia 2

After 8 years since the first installment, the eagerly anticipated Mafia 2 hits the shelves. But is it an offer you can't refuse or does it sleep with the fishes?

There's nothing quite like a good old fashioned gangster flick, the moody men, the gratuitous violence, the guns, the women, the money and the dark underbelly of society we're all obsessed with. Well Mafia 2 has this all in spades. The game revolves around your character Vito as he lives the life of crime in a New York style city trying to evade the cops, climb the ladder and make some money on the way.

Let's start with the good stuff. Firstly the graphics are absolutely incredible, I heard the PS3 version had some problems but I was playing this on the 360 and it looked luscious. The city is a real living and breathing city and like Mafia did before it, raises the bar in terms of visuals; every little detail has been considered and it's remarkable what they've done here. The gameplay works well with a standard duck, cover, shoot style that is quite popular these days, a fisty cuffs button mashing and you've got your handy map, your speed limiter button (for the car) and a range of weapons at your disposal. The voice acting, direction and feel is completely authentic, you are always in the world of your favourite mafia films like Goodfellas and The Godfather and all the cliches, good and bad, are neatly ticked off. The music of the era is great to listen to and the plot is exciting, dramatic and full of enough twists and turns to keep you interested. So whassadaproblem?

The problem is the game is full of niggles. For instance, there is a LOT of driving; unlike GTA IV you can't hop in a cab and jump to the next point but instead your left to drive for what can be quite a while and if you bump into a police car and get arrested? Back to the beginning of the drive. But then this was the main problem of the game, not just the annoyingly underused 'checkpoints', but the fact it felt like a tame sandbox game. It had all the elements to be a GTA for the Thirties but it stops short on a lot of aspects. You can't really go anywhere special, you can hold up stores but it's more of a sidenote and you just feel that for something so seemingly open, there's a lack of freedom. The fact that once you complete the game and that's it - no free roam ending - shows that this game might have spent too much on the big picture without taking note of the steps other similar games have taken in the last 8 years.

Sure you can customise your car, get some new clothes, kill some random people, hold up a gun shop, but really that's about it. The game wants you to follow it's linear story which is fair enough but surely you can bust the game wide open at the end for people to do what they want? I also had a problem with the AI, it was OK but at some points was completely infuriating, as soon as you go to shoot them, they will duck which makes gunfights sometimes a lot longer than they need to be. I also ran into a massive glitch when my AI friend Joe didn't accompany me to a final gun fight, which meant the game wouldn't continue and I couldn't restart the mission properly. Somehow, after an hour and a half of just running about trying to trigger something, it went onwards for no reason, but this almost became enough for me to throw the thing out the window. Come on now, games shouldn't be getting these types of glitches anymore. There's also the fact that if you crash your car, even a slight bit, you can die quite easily; this might seem realistic but really it becomes annoying once your nearing the end of a massive drive and a little mistake means you go back to the beginning again. I could tear my hair out at some points.

The game also felt a little short, it didn't quite have the epic impact on me I thought it would in the short space of time I played it in (app. 9-10 hours), but the overall story was what made it majestic. The plot of Vito and the different scenarios and missions they place him in are incredible, you even find out you're the one that kills protagonist Tommy at the end of Mafia and Vito's strange moral compass makes his character more interesting than the cardboard cut-outs of the others. However, the whole thing was let down by a lacklustre ending that will either lead on to Mafia 3 or to the DLC that has been announced. Either way, it didn't help the original experience.

Overall the whole game feels like you're in an interactive mafia film and that's no bad thing. It has some of the best visuals yet, missions and cutscenes GTA can only dream of and a clear love of the genre and the subject matter has gone into this game. However, it just falls short on so many levels that it's just not the complete gaming extravaganza it could have been. I would go as far as to say I enjoyed The Godfather game (where you fight the different families and look after your businesses etc.) more than this - which is a shame because the story is so good. It's slick and swish but without the balls to make it a stand-out release.

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster ... and this helped.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 6 September 2010

Four Lions

Chris Morris has certainly never shied away from controversy but does he take it a step too far with terrorists?

This story about four terrorists trying to plan an attack in Britain might seem bold and brash but really, it's just taking the piss out of some idiots who just happen to be terrorists, until the end.

I struggled to find this hilarious, in fact I felt people who thought this was really funny was laughing mainly because of it's oh-so naughty subject matter rather than the content itself. Don't get me wrong, it caters for all types of humour, the grossout crew, the pratfall gags, the 'intelligentsia' crowd, the awkward-Curb audiences but it didn't feel right. In fact, I thought the writers took rather an easy approach to the subject matter. You can tell this is by Peep Show/Thick of it writers (Bain and Armstrong) with the 'witty' dialogue but it's more of a middle class view of what working class Muslim terrorists might be like rather than shaking things up. By having Omar as the main character who actually has some brains and the balls to actually organise a strike, it instead feels like it's a man's mission to prove himself worthy and you almost root for the attack to go successfully, you sympathise with them and for the wrong reasons. But maybe I'm missing the point? So what exactly is the point?

These terrorists feel like they're doing this for lack of a better idea and the way they interact with each other is humorous but really, the terrorist jokes get old after a while. It also turns really sour as Ed, the wannabe-leader, is actually a nasty, horrible person and soon it becomes less matey and more bitter. I didn't want to sit there and have this fake sympathy for these guys as their wives and children can't wait for their man of the house to become a martyr, does that really happen? I don't know, and I don't think they do either.

It's a shame that this feels contrived and controversial for the sake of controversy, it's not proven anything or pushed any boundaries, it's just a run-of-the-mill comedy. I think if you honestly sat and watched it for the jokes, you'd realise it feels like an average British 'mate' comedy with a couple of laughs. I'm a big Chris Morris fan and I was left disappointed, I don't know what he set out trying to do, maybe he lost sight of what he wanted to show after a while, but whatever it is, I left feeling cheated somehow.

I'm being brutal here but it did make me laugh out loud on more than a couple of occasions and so it's worth it just for that, but this isn't the out-and-out bold, brash attempt at stirring things up that I wanted it to be. In fact, it felt lame and forced. I'd imagine that instead of being angry, the terrorists will probably look at the stupid characters and have a good laugh themselves because it's so damn silly. Lame.

Rating: 6/10

The Last Exorcism

Eli Roth takes a break from body-horror to straight horror in this documentary-style film about an exorcism.

I should really know better than to get too excited about films like this, I really am setting myself up for a fall and I know it. Let's be honest, the trailer made it look pretty freaky; even this poster looks fantastic, so how can it go wrong? Well, in quite a few ways.

The story is from the viewpoint of a documentary crew filming a preacher, Cotton, who wants to show everyone that exorcisms are fake. His reason for doing so is that he reads articles about parents killing their possessed kids and he wants to lift the lid on it once and for all. Cotton is a confident, suave, persuasive character who is, really, just a conman. He gets vast amounts of money from the poorest of people to perform these fake exorcisms and he believes that if it makes them feel better by him doing it, then so be it. A man's got to feed his family right? So the crew follow him out in the country to a small farm where livestock is getting slaughtered by their daughter, Nell. Then it all starts going a bit funny.

The slow start is something common for horror films and is a working formula that I enjoy. However, the pay-off's and especially the end are pretty terrible. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen all the scary bits of the film and if you can potentially see a 90 minute film in 3 minutes, and it be better, then there's a problem. It's a shame really because I really enjoyed the acting, the preacher Cotton is a great character and it's such a shame that everything around him was a bit shit. The girl playing Nell is very sweet and innocent but when she turns evil, it's not really that threatening, her father and brother also play the closed-off Southern folk to an impressive standard but the film just lacks the scare factor. The actual plot up to the finale is quite good as you're still not sure whether she is possessed or not but you know there's definitely something weird going on.

I don't really want to ruin this for anyone but I can't really recommend this film. It's a shame because it had all the basic elements needed to do a good horror story and, perhaps with a lesser budget might have even worked better, but with perhaps the most disappointing and sheer ridiculous ending seen on screen, it became a farce. It just tried too hard to put what it thought was scary up, rather than what is actually scary and mixed together the unique parts of other films. The look of Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity/REC, the demonic aspect of Rosemary's Baby, the content of The Exorcist, the body-horror of ... The Exorcist and all that. The film is trying, arguably, to be about the preacher finding his faith again but really it's a lame duck. It could have done so much but ended up being nothing more than a mashup of other films and being a huge let down.

The concept was good, some images were good, but it's most definitely not scary and you'll sleep soundly the night you watch it - don't worry. Points for trying though.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

Perhaps another title should be Edgar Wright Vs Hollywood ... and wins.

I've never been that much of a fan of Edgar Wright. There I've said it. I didn't really like Shaun Of The Dead or Hot Fuzz - I just didn't think they were that funny. After seeing the trailer for this film, I thought I'd enter with an open mind and see if this was more than a Kick-Ass wannabe.

The story, based on a bunch of comics, is about Scott's obsession with the local New York cool girl Ramona. Problem is, he already has a young girlfriend called Knives, he lives with his gay room-mate Wallace and the only work he does is with his band Sex Bomb-omb and he's not exactly the coolest kid around. However, once he starts falling for Ramona, he has to start fighting her evil ex's so that he can go out with her and that's basically it.

So is it any good? Yes. Very much so yes. Edgar Wright has made this film completely his own; the style is fantastic, it's all short, sharp and punctuated by words on-screen that makes it feel like you are reading a comic book. The effect makes it a hyper-real adventure for real geeks (not fake geek chics) whether it's nods to Final Fantasy or Seinfeld or Sonic the Hedgehog, it's full of sub-pop-culture references that still work in the context of the film that the people who don't understand the homages will still enjoy. It's fast-paced, uncompromising and just dives straight in. It knows exactly what it is and doesn't try to be something it's not. It just works perfectly.

The fight scenes look great, the acting is fun to watch, the script works, the humour is genuinely funny and it's just fucking cool. Saying that, Michael Cera should make this his final geek part as his Scott Pilgrim is the perfect ultimate role for him, it will be time for him to move on to something else now but unfortunately I doubt he will break his geeky mould. Kieran Culkin plays the gay, young layabout perfectly with enough self-knowing and humility to make him almost steal the show in some parts. Mary Winstead looks quite ugly for someone who is actually really hot but she hits her 'too cool for school' character right on the head, however her nemesis Knives is actually the more interesting character played by impressive newcomer Ellen Wong. The ex's, led by Jason Schwartzman, are also equally threatening and entertaining, each one of them relishing in their 'don't-take-myself-seriously' roles - Chris Evans and Brandon Routh being the stand-outs. Even a brief cameo by Thomas Jane and Clifton Collin is short yet funny and even Anna Kendrick is bearable (she's not in it that much).

The style might be amazing with bright, colourful visuals but it's definitely not for kids. I'm not even sure if it's for teenagers. It seems to be aimed at male twenty-somethings like myself but accessible for all audiences, so I might be somewhat biased, but it works perfectly. It's also the first time, probably ever, where a band that is in the context of the film is actually good. The music the Sex Bomb-ombs play I would go out and listen to, it makes a change from shitty indie-teenie-bopper-pleasing bands they usually stick up on stage that would be better suited with the Jonas Brothers in Rock Camp. The Sex Bomb-ombs actually rock and so does the other bands they show within the film - it's worth watching just for that.

I loved this a lot more than films like Kick-Ass, mainly because I felt Kick-Ass had a few flaws and felt a bit more like Spiderman for geekier geeks. This is much different and doesn't hold back, it pushes the idea of a film into a much more Warhol-esque sense of self-referencing that has the balls to try something a bit different and not be up it's own arse. Every minute had a classic moment and I think a lot of brave risks were taken in this film, and thank God they all paid off. It might be too fast for some people, it might be too geeky for others, it might just be a bit too stupid and silly for the rest of the audience, but I sure as hell liked it and it's the most fun I've seen on a cinema screen for a while.

Rating: 9/10


This FPS from Raven flew under the radar a couple of months ago but has been bubbling under the surface of anonymity and gaining an almost cult status. Should it be your next purchase?

I hadn't heard much of Singularity and when games like this aren't marketed enough (or in this case it seemed not at all), it's a dangerous game. Mainly because the market is full of FPS (first person shooters) and it's hard for the average gamer to know if a game is any good without seeing either some footage, a demo, or a preview article. None of which was easily available or advertised for this game.

This is another aspect where films and games differ. With a film you know who is going to be in it, what it's about, who is making it and the budget with trailers and posters everywhere. It's enough material to make a judgement before you go in, but with a game there's only a few recognisable names in the industry and you're also forking out a lot more money than a cinema ticket. All you have sometimes is the artwork and the back of the box. That's unless it's a franchise or a big game with a massive company behind it like Rockstar with Red Dead Redemption.

So what of this latest offering from Raven/Activision? Well the story is that you are sent to check out some strange activity coming from a hidden island, but once you get there all hell breaks loose. It starts as a horror story where horrible creatures walk around these abandoned schools but as soon as you pick up your TMD device it goes full-pelt into action. The TMD is a hand device that allows you to control time where you can fizzle away enemies into dust, open up time portals, rejuvenate ammo crates and by the end you can pretty much do anything. Along the way you pick up items that allow you to upgrade your TMD and the various weapons so you can personalise the gameplay to your style to a degree. As you progress in the plot, you see messages scrawled on walls and then time starts to go a bit ... well ... funny.

The first thing people will notice once they start playing for a while is that this is very similar to Bioshock. Just like your plasmids, you acquire different 'powers' as you progress that work alongside your weapons, but just like Bioshock these powers are fucking cool. Whether it's using the TMD to pick up oil barrels and throw them at your enemies, turn them into monsters, create a time 'shield' around you or more, the TMD has been well thought out and structured. The weapons are somewhat okay, once I had found an 'Autogunner' it was basically game over - I upgraded the hell out of it and nothing could stop me. This was an issue because after a while the game does get easy.

At first, the monsters are difficult to kill and the horror element is amazing, but where Bioshock kept this atmosphere going, Singularity settles for more explosions and such. They know the TMD makes you powerful, so perhaps they realised it was worthless creating tension when you're so badass - and you really are badass. The gameplay has a decent variety to an FPS, whether it's swimming underwater, trying to solve puzzles while you're in a gas mask running out of air, moving quietly amongst the blind monsters or just trying to pull boxes through time so you can stand on them to reach places, it does enough.

Picking up E99 tech and upgrading worked, but often they're everywhere and I had almost completely tech'd myself out. The tape players (similar to the diaries in Bioshock) fill in gaps of narrative as well as notes left around the place but I quickly got bored of just standing there and hearing them rattle on and unfortunately, if you move away from them, you can't hear them. Yawn.

The monsters were okay, a boss on top of a train was a good laugh but by the end you're killing more soldiers than anything. It's as if the monsters just gave up and the soldiers are far easier. The graphics looked great and the dialogue was okay. The actual island (with some references to Lost) had a geography that I just didn't understand, I never knew where I was or what exactly I was doing. The common problem with most FPS's, they tend to have a fleshy story but have trouble communicating it to you efficiently and unfortunately the same applies.

The plot is a good one, lots of twists and turns with multiple endings (and an ending after the credits if you hold out), but essentially you're getting from A to B, doing something like flicking a switch or using your TMD then moving on - which I guess is the same as any FPS perhaps. Strangely it doesn't feel repetitive though and the set pieces are fun but there just feels like there is something missing...

Overall, this game was a pleasant surprise. The TMD element was new, fun, adventurous and a great idea but the weapon element was not utilised enough and the monsters became more and more scarce and less and less fierce.The story was good and had much more depth than a lot of other FPS' and was a unique, well-devised plan - you can never really go wrong with time travel stories. The graphics and gameplay were good so why isn't it perfect? Firstly, it was too easy, secondly you become frustrated that there isn't something more solid here in terms of stand-out moments and real drama or tension, it just lacks huge set pieces that can sometimes make or break a game, you also can't help but stand it up next to Bioshock where it pales only slightly in comparison. It feels like something that's a bit too little too late. It was a great time but it's something I'm not going to come back to but definitely glad I played it. If you loved Bioshock and are on the lookout for something similar, or to keep you quenched for Infinite, then this will do nicely. It's just a shame it couldn't be so much more.

Rating: 7/10