Friday, 4 November 2011

REVIEW: Drive

A film that people will talk about for years. Get in before it gets away.


There's a story somewhere about a woman who sued the distributors of this film for representing it like Fast & Furious and when it turned out to be something else she left disappointed enough to sue them. I can only hope they countersue and then instead of getting money, they take her eyes instead, or just take her out back and shoot her like a dog, because this has become one of my favourite movies of all time.

For those who don't know, Gosling plays a stunt car driver for the movies who works in a garage in the day and is a getaway driver at night. "What do you do?" "I drive." Once he bumps into his neighbour played by Carey Mulligan (a bit different from the Hispanic in the book) and her young son, he seems to take a liking to them. When the Dad comes back from prison, Gosling gets caught up in a situation he doesn't want to be in.

This is a film that not only resonates with women, but is for the modern man. Gosling takes care of himself, he doesn't smoke but instead chews on toothpicks, he's well groomed, moves as smooth as a snake - almost effeminately and isn't loutish. He's the strong, silent type and without a name, (he must say about fifty words the whole 90 minutes) and it draws comparisons with the Western genre, amongst obvious others. However, amongst all his charming ways and boyish good looks lies a sinister, animalistic dark side. It's that anger, frustration and sheer balls that lies behind every man - the need to do anything to protect the weak, the violent streak that we keep under control. What turns from an interesting love story goes to a Tarantino-like gangster caper but on a much smarter scale.

My initial thought was this was going to be like one of my favourite films from the Seventies called, funnily enough, Driver starring Ryan O'Neal and one of my favourite actors Bruce Dern. O'Neal playing a getaway driver who hates guns, who uses a car like it's attached as a limb. Drive shares these same values. Gosling handles a car like it's a walk down the street, he never needs to say much and oozes cool. He's the classic Noir anti-hero, blurred moral lines but a passion to do what's right. His conversation with the kid about sharks and knowing who the bad guy is sums his character up perfectly, just because someone seems bad and does bad things, does it make him a bad person? Aren't we all similar in that respect? We might not be kicking someone's face in to death in a lift, but then isn't it out of protection in any case? The scorpion on his back is a very apt simple, a symbol of evil and yet protection as well as a strong sexual image, an isolated creature that is deadly yet, when used for medicinal purposes, can also heal. It's an animal of contradictions, much like Gosling. Even his violent behaviour is like a scorpion, quick, sharp and with a sting. We don't know anything about the man, and neither do we need to, Gosling is able to provide such an atmosphere on screen that it keeps us on the edge of our seats.

That's not to take away from the peripheral characters, Carey Mulligan does an amazing job as doe-eyed, hard-working mum Irene and Bryan Cranston impresses as Shannon (though it reminded me a little too much of his character in Breaking Bad), but this is essentially Gosling's film, he eats up every scene like this was the role he was born for. There's no wasted dialogue, no scenes that don't work to the films favour and the story moves at a perfect pace.

The directing is beyond amazing. Refn paints the city in a beautiful light that would make even the likes of Michael Mann stand up and pay attention. His use of lighting, the texture of his shots, the depth and action scenes are expertly done, it's editing is unique and exciting and the soundtrack is mind-blowing. It gives the film an eighties, Blade Runner feel to it's modern day setting and every frame is like a picture. I only really knew Refn from Bronson, a film I thoroughly enjoyed and that introduced me to Tom Hardy, and the poorly received Valhalla Rising. However, his boldness itself to create atmosphere, chilling or otherwise is exceptional.

What also helps this is the score, a magnificent piece of work by Cliff Martinez and Bronson collaborator Johnny Jewel. The music has a French cool about it with a sinister undertone and at times a breathy female vocal that is transcending. It's not very often do I sit and listen to an entire score, proving how worth your time it is to listen to regardless of the film. Some scenes which would play out nicely in other films, such as when they are all eating diner together, have a sinister undercurrent dirge that plays throughout several scenes, invoking that evil side of Gosling that is hidden so well. It taps into your subconscious and plays with it.

Overall, this film is startling in every way. If you haven't seen it, then you'll really miss not being involved in conversations about it until the end of cinema. It really is that good.

Rating: 10/10

Saturday, 22 October 2011

REVIEW: LA Noire

Team Bondi have now disbanded claiming that producing LA Noire was akin to slave labour. In it's lead-up, LA Noire was one of the most talked about games for quite a while, but did it live up to all expectations?


The reason why this has taken me so long, is because the third and final disc on the 360 didn't work. It gathered dust until I rented the game out and completed it but when I returned to it, any novelty value long dead and gone, it dawned on me how irritating this game can be.

You play (for the most part) Cole, an LA detective and war hero who likes to play things by the book. As the game progresses you work your way through Homicide, Vice, Traffic and Arson in multiple cases where each case acts like an episode of a TV series. There are smaller story arcs and a grander arc which is a confusing mix of army morphine, Cole's mates, a strange doctor and someone setting fire to houses. It has to be said that the most interesting arc was the initial Homicide story where you are trying to find a serial killer who likes his women. However, the way the case ended was weak to say the least. After that, it plateaus somewhat with some highs and lows but never really giving you anything new. I was also constantly bemused by what was happening and why we kept getting flashbacks into Cole's military past (which does become clearer later on). Cole's rule-abiding behaviour is quite boring and when he is 'shamed' it does come out of nowhere and completely out of character, especially when we see what his by-the-books actions have done in the past. It's a complex narrative, and not in a good way - if I don't understand it, I don't care about it and then I lose interest, which speaking to others seems to be the case a lot of the time.

This is sold as a narrative heavy game and the stories themselves are served well, I just can't stand the protagonist and found pretty much every other character more interesting. Even his final redemption at the end of the game was pretty lame. However, there's a lot of hours of gameplay here and I never got truly bored. It's quite linear but there is a sandbox element and at times you get calls to other cases, however sometimes these can take about ten minutes or more of driving to get to depending on where you are in the city. You can also unlock cars, 'landmarks' etc. but seeing as you'd have to drive to get there, and as great as the driving is, it's not Grand Theft Auto, so you're not exactly excited to do it.

Depending on choices you make, how well you do etc. will affect the narrative of the case, however not the entire game. Apart from dying, you're pretty much never going to lose. Essentially, you could get everything wrong and do nothing and although you might get a 1 out of 5 star rating for the case, it won't matter to your progression, it only means that you miss out on some story elements in the case that would be interesting. You're there to play a game after all, not rush through it.

Graphically, LA Noire is exceptional. LA as a city is lush, rich and full of life and the face motion technology they use is exquisite with some outstanding results. You recognise a lot of other Mad Men characters that have decided to join their co-star. The soundtrack is beautiful and this is a well crafted game, everything is put together in such a way that even the non-gamer would be impressed. However, what really lets it down is the gameplay.

The problem is that the actual playing of the game is crucial to the enjoyment of the viewer and LA Noire is repetitive and at best, stupidly easy. The shootouts are too few and far between with some annoying controls and the chase scenes are fun, but usually consist of just holding up on the control pad. What really annoys me are the interrogations. You have a simple system of truth, doubt or lie. However, what they say isn't necessarily a lie. If someone says to you - "Do you know Tom?" "Well it depends on which Tom now doesn't it" is that truth, doubt or lie? They look like they are lying, but it's true, it does depend on what Tom. But then you get it wrong and if you press lie, you have to back it up with proof - which sometimes could be anything. Cole also seems to go berserk every time you press Lie, he suddenly starts shouting and threatening out of nowhere which jars with the game. It's a flawed system and I don't think it was thought out enough at all.

Also the general set-up of each case is you arrive at the scene, the 'looking' music starts, you walk around until your control vibrates, you have a look and keep going until the 'looking' music stops. You talk to whoever you need to, get your partner to drive you to the next scene, chase or shoot someone and so on and so forth. A couple of times you have a couple of suspects, and I was constantly awaiting if I made the right choice - however, I have no idea still and it grates on me. I thought at the end we would see who was actually guilty. Case after case after case is the same layout but a different story with only minor changes.

I feel like LA Noire is all style and no substance. It's smooth and slick but with a story that I thought should be a lot darker (though is still quite dark at times), with a character more complex and especially if this is a film noir rip-off - an anti-hero at least, there should be more varied and advanced gameplay with a better overall storyline. There was so much here that could have made this game exceptional but instead it arrives at mediocre. It's definitely worth playing, a lot of fun and all, but there was so much that could have been improved on that you can't help but feel it was a chance slightly wasted. Good effort, but better luck next time. It's just a shame that Team Bondi's demise probably means the same for LA Noire - let's just hope someone somewhere has been taking notes.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 10 October 2011

REVIEW: Resistance 3

As the war rages on, one man travels to New York to try and save the world.


I've enjoyed the Resistance series. The game's initial concept of war-torn Thirties London resisting an alien attack was original and exciting and was a great launch title for the PS3. Resistance 2 taking place in the States was a natural step and was the Hollywood type of sequel you'd expect as your character is infected with the alien virus and slowly changes during the course of the film. It's rather dark and bleak scenarios continue in Resistance 3.

You play Joe who was the guy who killed poor old Nathan in Resistance 2. He's in a small outback post trying to keep everyone alive when a doctor from the previous games turns up to say that a wormhole is seriously threatening the existence of mankind, he needs Joe to escort him there where they can shut it down. Resistance 3 soon turns into a road trip where you run into a couple of huge monsters and also a few bad humans along the way. It might have been a rather linear, somewhat repetitive affair but when I think back on the game, there were some great set pieces. From the horror onslaught of undead type aliens to the train ride to the prison escape, it works out to be a rather adventurous story. There's little to pick at but not much that makes it stand out from every other first shooter. People are trying to make things bigger and better and I rather enjoyed the idea of it being a desolate case of trying to survive a post-apocalyptic nightmare rather than an all out blaze of glory.

The story was good enough and the graphics were good with some great 3D effects (lasers were amazing for instance) and the general music and sound effects were brilliant making this game quite a smooth FPS. However, I couldn't help but think it needs to step up it's game a bit to fit into the current market. It was an enjoyable play but this whole Network Pass to play multiplayer didn't sit right with me, in fact I couldn't be bothered to do it and so didn't even try the multiplayer, which might be astounding. In any case, for what it's worth, it's still rather forgettable and I can only hope that in Resistance 4 they try something new as sometimes  there's only so much shooting with different guns at different targets you can take.

Now, Killzone 3 ...

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 9 October 2011

REVIEW: Knuckle

Or My Big Fat Gypsy Bare Knuckled Boxing Match ...


Bareknuckle boxing is very strange, people consider it somewhat more brutal than normal boxing, but it's not really the case. Sure, the idea that your face is being pummelled by bone rather than a padded glove might seem ridiculous, but the bareknuckle boxer tends to get his fist damaged during the bout, especially on the face (hence old school photos of Victorian boxers, the reason why their fists are so low is you damage yourself less when aiming for the body) and therefore it might seem there is more superficial damage, but there are less deaths or long-term damage as you're not smashing the head all the time, like pro boxing.

Anyway, whatever. Knuckle is a man's pet project over the course of over a decade following two warring Irish families as they fight with each other again and again in these little civilised bareknuckle fights. It follows the Quinns for the most part but you often see the side of the Joyce's but, to be honest, it just gives these guys something to do. It's a sad tale of how these guys can only prove themselves one way, and that's fighting.

We even join director Ian Palmer in the sheer voyeurism of watching the sport, we're caught up in the blood lust that we see on the screen and Palmer even admits it had got too much and he had to stop. The way they make their own WWF (or should I say WWE) style trash talking videos is amazing, and the fights themselves sell for more than a few quid, with the fighters getting paid regardless. It's a strange affair and most of the time, the people are completely self-aware that it's more for pride than anything, there's enough money, bile and boredom to fuel the feud for a while yet.

It's strange to watch a documentary where you don't actually care for the subject, or any of it's characters, that much. It's a commentary of what is seen as an underground culture, but is clearly a thriving commodity in the travelling community. It's not got much depth, but it's an interesting watch.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Or more apt, Be Afraid Of Katie Holmes ....


Del Toro producing? Horror? Little kids? Could this be The Orphanage again? Fingers crossed and jumping up and down I began to watch the film. Only to be thoroughly disappointed and at one point even fell asleep.

The story is about a little girl living with her Dad in a new home with his new girlfriend. There are some clear family troubles with the daughter not really wanted by either parent and poor old Katie Holmes trying to be a mum. During the course of this there are these tiny little critters living underneath the house and they seem to pop up causing mischief which then turns a bit more serious as blood starts to be shed.

The main problem with this film is that it's as confused as Michael Jackson's kids. It's as much for adults than Gremlins was (which was also a 15 certificate), which everyone saw as a kid. These little blighters are even scared of light ("Bright light! Bright light!") and then it tries to take this weird, cutesy thing of these rather unassuming little toy soldier type monsters and make them really, really scary. When in all honesty, if you had any kind of weapon, even a big shoe, you'd probably kill them all in one swoop.

The little girl does well, even with such an annoying face and the stereotypical metaphor for these creatures being the obstacle to overcome to live a happy family life falls flat on it's face after the final scene, which in all honesty, doesn't really make sense. I wish I could say more about the film, but truth be told nothing really happens, it's the girl getting more and more perturbed by these strange little monsters that want to drag her to some weird kind of hell. All the fairy tale type notions (with the inevitable half-way 'reveal' of the history of the creatures) are a bit of a mixed bag and there's no real jeopardy to really keep you on the edge of your seat. It really is a shame that Katie Holmes just can't break out as an actress, but she is so amazingly average in this film that you can't help but wonder if you're just watching someone pretending to act. It's also confusing who you are rooting for and who the protagonist is, is it Holmes or the little girl? They're kind of against each other but not really? Who is the hero?

Director Troy Nixey's debut feature film should be wowing the audience, but instead it feels like a half-hearted effort and with Del Toro's name splashed over it all, it's a shame that the failure will most likely fall onto him rather than Nixey. This film is instantly forgettable and about as scary as realising you've forgotten to pack a pair of pants on your holiday. Do yourself a favour and forget Del Toro had anything to do with this film and keep those expectations low - you'll need it.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

REVIEW: A Serbian Film

One of the most depraved films of recent years has shocked the world and, at the very least, put the Serbian film industry (who knew they had one?) on the map.


It's a clever move calling it A Serbian Film. For sheer marketing reasons, it is out-there enough to put Serbia at the front of the torture-porn thing that has settled somewhat now, and it will forever stand alone as that film from Serbia, A Serbian Film. What the people of Serbia might say about this film standing up for their country is redundant and it doesn't make Serbia look like an amazing place to live, though there does seem to be an infinite number of hot women, so can't be all bad.

The film is about an ex-porn star who is brought back into the business by the promise of huge amounts of money. The first hour you can see things aren't looking good in this weird porn film he's agreed to star in, but for that first hour it slowly sets the scene until the final act where all hell breaks loose.

Though a lot of people would say this has been made purely for shock value, it could in fact be viewed as quite a strong social commentary. The crazed director in the film would mirror what people would think of director Srdjan Spasojevic - arguing that all the horrid ordeals he's putting them through is 'art', that there is a finesse to this grotesque horror. We all know that it is in fact not art at all which could also be applied to the film itself making it completely self-aware. However, there's a bit more going on then just torture-porn.

The idea of a 'happy Serbian family' and it's violent history, the way it literally fucks themselves over, it's lack of identity, the idea of the rich controlling the poor and taking away more than just their dignity. The notion that the rich and powerful make brothers fight, families go against each other and that there's no sense of unity. This isn't surprising since it's only just become a stand-alone sovereign republic since 2006 when it separated from Montenegro marking the end of Yugoslavia (thanks Wikipedia). It's also a commentary on it's apprehension with Western, often sexualised, influences in what was a Communist environment. By feeling so restricted, they have gone off the deep end into pure Western freedom - 'free fucking' as they call it in the film.

Anyway, that's enough serious stuff. I have to say that, in a completely non-depraved way, I enjoyed the film. The bleached out colours, the way everything was shot, it's relentless assault on your human condition, the characters and the general plot all serve to be quite a strangely entertaining film. As regular readers might know, I'm a big fan of the slow-burn beginnings if the pay-out is amazing - and you can't say the payout here wasn't intense. There are a couple of stupid bits and pieces that don't make sense, but to be bold and brave enough to deal with necrophilia, (extreme) paedophilia, incest, rape and the idea of just fucking anything and taking it to such extreme levels is astonishing. Even though it's quite horrific to watch, I did find it funny. I'm sorry but killing a guy by driving your boner through his eye and into his brain is nothing to be sniffed at (it is literally quite an eyeful). It has numerous scenes that if spread out across several films, would still make those films the top of disgust, even if nothing else happened. Yet here, they've rolled it all into one fairly decent package.

If none of this shocks you in any way, then you might need to see someone because it really goes off into the extremes of the psyche. However, you cannot take it seriously. The last line of the whole film for instance, I couldn't help but laugh out loud at. After having quite a serious ending, a five minute sequence or so of silent reflection, to end in such a manner is pure genius.

A lot of people will view this film and think it's just a disgusting piece of shit. It's not exactly something you can take someone to on a first date or sit with mum and dad and watch, but if you, like me, are one of those people that joke about disgusting, sick stuff, you'll love this. Otherwise if you like horror films, it doesn't go for the scare, it just pleases to shock.

Keep an open mind and you'll enjoy. I guarantee you that you'll be talking about it for the rest of your life.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 11 September 2011

REVIEW: Dead Space 2

Sequel to one of the most original games ever, there was a very high standard for this game to live up to. But did it deliver?


I had a problem with this game. Literally. In that my second disc on my Xbox wasn't working. So after putting it down after intensively working my way through the first disc, I finally returned to Hell on Earth, or in space should I say after a 5 month hiatus.

Dead Space 2 takes place not long after the first game and Isaac is in a psychiatry ward in a settlement on some planet or other. Immediately, things start going wrong again. After an escape, your back with the monsters and you are left to survive - alone. Well, mostly. There's some woman who is helping you out a bit along the way as well - but she's hardly there so don't worry.

I can't really remember much of the story. You generally have to get from A to B via C and press a few buttons and do some things to turn things off and on in the grander scheme of things or whatever, but I never really understood the story at any point. You're also seems you're against the military as they are to recover the artefact, this ancient huge structure that seems to be the key to everything. What makes this game enjoyable is that the artefact and the story around it might seem like the main story, however it is in fact the story of Isaac's peronal issues that are the most interesting - and in fact make for the heart wrenching power behind what would usually be dismissed as a no-brainer action game.

In case you didn't know, the first Dead Space was actually Isaac coming to terms with his inner demons in relation to his wife. This denial continues in Dead Space 2 where is trying his hardest to let her go, but he cannot. She appears, calling him back into madness, Isaac trying desperately to hang onto his sanity. Again, the monsters are just personifications of his mental breakdown and it's these two levels of interpretation that make the game work. For the action shoot'em'uppers, it's a man killing monsters with a big bit of stone in the middle and some weird stuff going on, but for those who wish to, the story can be read in a multiple of ways.

In any case, EA have taken Dead Space 2 in a different direction. There's a lot more action, you get thrown about the city which has huge landscapes and more larger scale battles. However, what it makes up for in action it loses in it's original appeal. The reason why I loved the first game is that on the Ishimura spaceship, the corridors were tiny, claustrophobic, making you constantly on edge. The tension was unbearable at times and it dotted the gameplay with action set pieces that fulfilled the odd blood lust. Dead Space 2 does have tension, but it's so open that you can't help but feel like they've missed the point slightly. It's the same feeling as if it's like a Hollywood remake of a Japanese horror film. However, at one point when you enter back into Ishimura, it was one of the most emotive sequences I've had in a game. The recognisable set, the horrible closed corridors, the long elevator rides, it all came flooding back in a wave of dread upon me in a too-brief chapter that made it clear to me that the original Dead Space was definitely better.

An annoying aspect near the end, when you're up against an invincible Terminator-esque monster (which made me recall Resident Evil 3) took me quite a few attempts as I had ran out of ammo and health. I'd recommend saving at regular intervals on different slots because I'm used to just overwriting my save files again and again and I was gutted I couldn't go back to fill up on more health and ammo before launching into this battle against a load of creatures and someone that can't die. The same for the final boss battle, which took a few attempts and then suddenly through a stroke of chance I completed in about 20 seconds.

The gameplay however is a lot smoother, the graphics more colourful yet washed out and they have taken painstaking effort into the small details that grace the game's every moment. The voice acting is superb but, much like the first game, the overall story arc as I said before could have been more simplified. Why am I pushing this button again? Who is this guy? Why am I going back into Ishimura again? Luckily, it never stays like that for long and you're quite happy just to follow where you mean to go and kill some things along the way.

I did thoroughly enjoy the game and it was definitely a great purchase. However, it wasn't the survival horror that the first one was and also I didn't collect near as enough ammo or power nodes etc. by the end as I had done in the first game, so I felt like they somewhat rely on the fact you might want to replay the game keeping all your stuff again and adding to it. I just think that it's a worthy sequel but can't touch the amazing experience that I took during the first game.

Great fun but somewhat lacking in areas. I can only hope that another game like the first, or perhaps a sequel that might do something a bit different will come about. As much as I love those weird monsters, I can't help but feel that I'm going to be a bit sick of them if it's the same thing third time round. They should definitely make it more disturbing, which doesn't always mean less action.

And please no Terminator type monsters. As tense as it was, it was also very annoying.

Go out and buy it. You won't be disappointed but if you haven't done the first one? Definitely do that first.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 9 September 2011

NEWS: Josh Brolin As Oldboy

One of my all-time favourite films is about to get molested by Spike Lee as he gives Oldboy a going over. Oh and Josh Brolin's going to be in it.


Do you remember when Spike Lee used to make films about racial equality? Some that were a bit hard hitting? Maybe he feels with Obama President that everything is equal, but whatever it is, why is he doing Oldboy? Handled so carefully by one of my favourite directors Chan-Wook Park, it's hard to think that such an effortlessly perfect film should be put under the Hollywood gloss.

In any case, they are doing it and will ruin it for the millions of people that will see it, then see the original and say the original is better - but then these are the people who should just watch the original anyway.

In any case, Josh Brolin is going to be in it and I like him, so it can't be too bad, and Christian Bale is rumoured to be playing the rich, young man out for blood. Also it will apparently be closer to the original manga rather than the Korean film - which at least promises to be different. However because Roy Lee is producing it, after converting Infernal Affairs for The Departed, people are hoping it will be a high caliber. However, I thought The Departed was a shoddy interpretation of Infernal Affairs to be honest, so I'm not that bothered. Also, this was the film I took my girlfriend to see on our first date, almost 7 years to the day ... wow ....

NEWS: Sony's New 3D Visor

Don't have a 3D TV? Want To Pretend You're In Tron:Legacy? Then You Might Want To Purchase This Little Number!

Sony have released a new head visor that gives you 720p HD 3D images that come from two separate OLED screens to be released later this year in Japan.

People have already started calling it the new Virtual Boy but the HMZ-T1 as it's less commonly known will come in at roughly $799. Boom. 

Not only this but Sony have said they will try to make it wireless and it's currently looking like you will have fully immersive surround sound technology built into it's headphones for a full immersive experience. Worth it just to sneak up on these rich gamers! It's another step towards becoming one with the computer like The Matrix - but will we live to see it?

Probably not.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

REVIEW: Kill List


Gruesome. Terrifying. Horrific. Disturbing. These were all words that inspired me to go see Kill List, one of the most talked about British films this year. But was it a killer of a movie or rather a slow death?

Director Ben Wheatley first caught my attention with Down Terrace, a different take on a gangster film that is really about a suburban family trying to get along and then takes a turn for the worst. It was quite shocking in places, but it’s non-chalant undertaking in such a recognisable environment made people feel quite perturbed, and although I didn’t really like the film, I respected what it was trying to do.

Wheatley’s next film, Kill List, takes everything I enjoyed about Down Terrace and twists it into something quite stunning, if only for it’s ugliness. There had been a lot of hype surrounding this film and I came out thinking it didn’t quite offer what others promised, a lot of other cinema-goers were pissed off with the ending and after a while, I thought about it more and more and I realised I actually really enjoyed it. In fact, the idea that it pissed people off makes me like it even more.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be for everyone’s tastes. The general set-up goes from kitchen sink drama to gangster thriller to horror and the exquisite blend of genres makes for an enjoyable ride, no matter what people say of the outcome. The bones of the film is that it’s about a hitman who is having some domestic arguments with his wife, they’ve run out of money and he needs to get back on the game with his mate. There’s talk of the war, of something disastrous that happened in Kiev and as they go through their kill list and down the rabbit hole, things start to get weirder and weirder.

Throughout the film are scatters of extremely strange, disturbing moments that come out of the blue. A sign carved into the back of a mirror, visions of people outside the window, photos being taken of them in secret and then the victims thanking them for being killed. These little scatterings of strange events in a real world is what makes the ending become somewhat believable in it’s audacity at going completely off the radar.

As a film, I thought it was extremely well made. I hate it when people use the word ‘gritty’ to describe a look of a film, as usually I think it means ‘grainy’ – which is generally a big no-no for any cinematographer. However, it’s handheld shaky-cam technique makes you feel like you’re in the thick of the action and the use of light is extremely well designed. The darkness is a symbol of our protagonist’s state of mind, it is in the dark where all the true horrors come to light. The sound editing is also some of the best I’ve ever seen (or heard), it’s a masterclass of building tension and unease then relief, it’s done in such a way that it brings you even deeper into the film.

Some of the sequences are horrific, terrifying and absolutely brilliant. My favourite scene was their escape through the tunnels underground which felt like a Silent Hill moment if ever I’ve seen one. The ending is purposefully left open for interpretation. It could be argued that the whole thing is real and that this group of people have had their eyes on him for a while, perhaps the whole thing is a metaphor for his relationship with his wife? Look how similar the people she shoots look to himself? It’s essentially an invasion of his home, of his inner keep and it is there that he finds the deepest horror – a Freudian hatred of his family. Perhaps it’s him coming to terms with his violent tendencies? There’s the idea that men don’t have anything to live or die for, that killing Iraqi civilians is as unjust as killing people on a list, what’s the difference? It could be the blood lust which becomes too overbearing. Perhaps it’s his isolation from everyone around him, he becomes so self-absorbed and disturbed that he loses all connections with the real world.

The sudden shock ending might not sit right with the audience, but I feel it was actually the best possible ending to create. Not only will it keep people talking and discussing, but it also allows the viewer to fill in the gaps themselves and it was never really about the kill list – it’s a MacGuffin if ever I’ve seen one. Unlike other British gangster films, this isn’t about the killing – it’s not cool and it’s not hip, it’s a horrific insight into the psyche of a man that turns into a strange Lynchian escapade that puts The Wicker Man to shame (not just because of the straw). I highly recommend you check it out yourselves and tell me what you think.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, 2 September 2011

REVIEW: The Inbetweeners

I should get this out of the way immediately - I don't find The Inbetweeners that funny. However, I can understand why people like it, but I don’t think anyone was really prepared by how well the film has done.


I’m not going to go into numbers and bore you, but put it this way, The Inbetweeners movie has done really, really well. The tale of four young lads on their first proper holiday has been quite a fan favourite but despite this, I can’t help but think it’s relatively average at best. In fact, I felt the film was worse than the episodes, which I don’t rate that highly either.

I should go into why I don’t like it as people might be opposed to the review if they think I’m just trying to be anti-mainstream (yes Inbetweeners is mainstream). Firstly, I hate the way it constantly flashes back to what’s happened earlier in the episode. I’ve just seen it, why do I need to see it again? It’s as if they are trying to waste time or make some kind of Wonder Years immediate nostalgia feel to the episode. Nostalgia again cropping up with it’s use of music, old and new, so that the older folks can remember being kids and listening to The Cure etc. It’s a subconscious attempt to involve all and then proceed to make fanny and dick jokes.

I do think some of the jokes are well constructed but the plots are quite feeble at best and sometimes the horrible cliché of a catchphrase reers it’s ugly head, Wetherspoon’s becoming full of people throwing Inbetweener’s in-jokes at each-other like they’ve just discovered wanking and want to tell everyone about it. It’s easy for me to say this though from the outside looking in, but what I find strange is essentially this Middle England youth culture that’s depicted is actually a glorified, feel-good jaunty that has no-one ever really learning a lesson or developing at all. The movie tries to do this, but essentially it’s just a bunch of scenes linked together with the writer’s thinking ‘how can we make this scene more awkward? Shall we throw another dick joke in?’

The acting is also terrible, which can be seen in the recent Chickens where, again, the Inbetweener’s actors play just another part of themselves. The acting in the film is just as bad, if not worse.

Oh yes, the film. I forgot about that. Right well, firstly there is absolutely no way those girls would be interested with those guys and the ending made me want to throw a grenade onto the boat and end them all for being so sickly ‘nicey nice’ and everything working out perfectly. It’s just so bloody feel-good cheesy nonsense that is ‘cutting-edge’ because it uses filthy humour. Sorry, I digress again.

You have to understand, I don’t hate The Inbetweeners. If it’s on, I’ll watch it. I just don’t get the fascination or the ridiculous success of it. It’s sometimes quite lazy and feels like a dirty Grange Hill – the times where it’s supposed to be emotional or dramatic are instead cringeworthy.

Anyway, the film just feels like the crew of the show wanted a bit of an excuse for a holiday. I must have laughed about once every ten or fifteen minutes, which is good for a comedy film, but not great. The middle sags to a horrible degree and I’d rather they just squeezed this into a one hour special on channel 4 or something, but then it wouldn’t have made multi-millions I guess.

One good thing about it is it seems that it brings people together. Everyone remembers the awkwardness of being a teenager, the creative namecalling, the comraderie of your mates and the obsession with anything that was rude. Dick jokes have always plagued comedy for centuries, so I guess why should it stop now? It doesn’t matter how old you are, a dick joke will always go down well (that’s what she said).

So the movie has it’s awkward moments, it’s stupid moments, it’s physical slapstick and some clever set-ups, but I never once thought this was a great comedy. The end also had got me hating it even more by the time I walked out and everyone saying how much they loved it and already talking about ‘that bit’ and ‘remember when’ – yeah, I just saw it. I went home and watched some American Office instead and felt a lot better.

See it if you fancy a chuckle, but it’s ‘alright’. I also doubt I’ll ever bother to sit down and watch it again either, which is saying something itself.

Rating: 5/10

REVIEW: Silent House

From Uruguay comes a real-time horror flick which has the unique selling point that it's all been filmed in one take. Come inside and enter The Silent House ... please wipe your shoes.


There's something brave about this film. Is it the sheer bravado that comes with announcing that it has all been rehearsed to such a scale that a horror film can literally be made in ninety minutes? Or the reality of it? There is so much darkness that it would be sheer stupidity if they didn't cut along the way - and so I will end any questions now. Let's presume it wasn't done in one take.

Now that that's out of the way, we can delve through the hype and into whether this is a good film or not. However, I'm slightly on the fence about it. The slow burning beginning might seem a tad too long for some, but I always find that it helps set the scene, examine characters and build up the tension which is always a plus. Once everything starts going wrong, you wander around the house with our protagonist Laura as things start going bump in the dark. I do have a few issues with this . Mainly, she makes a somewhat meagre attempt to escape the house but by no means puts any effort into it, so the initial creeping around the house seems a bit stupid. If there's some kind of killer around, why would you be snooping trying to find him? Also, when she does ever go outside, it's dusk at best, never night-time, which makes it less scary and I question why they were going to sleep while the sun was still up in any case.

However, for it's faults, the film allows the viewer to snoop around the spooky house with Laura as she uncovers stranger and stranger things. Little girls turn up, weird paintings, the staircase leading to the dreaded upstairs, strange photos on walls, noises in the distance, they all create an atmosphere that plays on the audience's imagination by giving you glimpses of things - one inspiring sequence with a Polaroid flash was brilliant to say the least. Once you start nearing the end and you fathom what the hell is going on, you feel cheated and it's a real shame that they couldn't have come up with something slightly better or at least more original. In fact, it means the entire story doesn't make any sense and the strange credits sequence leaves you feeling like the attachment you built up for Laura got severed, that you were perhaps punished for rooting for her.

By going into this in too much detail, I'll be giving the game away. It's safe to say though that I did enjoy the film and is one step further in the evolution of horror, especially modern ones like Paranormal Activity where low-budget scares are more than often the best way to go. Whatever is going bump in the dark in your head, will always be scarier than reality.

Don't mistake this film for the American remake that will be coming out soon either. Apparently it's not much different and, like a lot of remakes, a lot worse. Find this out and have a look because, for the majority of the film, I felt I was with Laura in a horribly creepy house and for that scare alone, it's worth the money. Minus a point for the ending though.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 29 August 2011

REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Coming in with little expectations, the latest of the Planet of the Apes series was a dramatic tonal shift from the campness of the original series (and awfulness of Burton's) to give a refreshing film that deserves more credit.


Whenever I think back to the original Planet of the Apes series, I remember confusing images of Charlton Heston hamming it up, of a weird bestiality romance, but mostly of discrimination and intolerance. This is what this film concentrates and does away with all the unnecessary sci-fi silliness of it all. This is, essentially, a film that mirrors today's society in more ways than one.

The story behind this is that, in an effort to find a cure-all medicine, James Franco's experiments on chimps results in the birth of Caesar, an ape already born in captivity. Franco takes the baby into his home and Caesar is maturing at an astonishing rate. After an unfortunate incident, Caesar is locked up with his own kind and is astonished at the way he is treated. His plan to escape slowly unfolds and he leads the apes with an all out savage attack at the end of the film.

There will be certain current events that will be mirrored here. America's treatment of it's prisoners of Iraq, the animal testing, and you could even say it mirrors the treatment of the Jews in Nazi Germany. As we grow with Caesar we are just as afraid of his primal behaviour as he is, clearly he's going through a huge identity crisis 'What is Caesar?' he asks, his existential crisis becoming the main fuel for the events. Once we see him in clothes, with his human characteristics but with a chain round his neck, with his sloppy food and the prison drama that takes up the middle section of the film, we can't help but feel sorry for him. The battle for his humanity, to help his fellow creature, replaces the initial battle that Franco has to save his father. However, this is essentially what the film is about, a film about fathers, a coming-of-age rebellion against your father and the world that's about finding your own place in the world.

Caesar is, for what is mostly a silent part, an incredibly complex character that keeps the whole film together. Fortunately, not much effort is put into the Franco/Pinto love interest, instead it's enough to give Caesar the feeling of having a mother that's not his mother, an object of his father's affection that he can't hope to attain. His episode back in captivity is horrifying, he knows he must fight to be at the top of the hierarchy and feels spurned by the humans. The only thing is that, his feeling of hatred towards the humans might seem somewhat just, but his feelings on what he did to get in there in the first place are never brought into question. The poor neighbour of Franco however does seem to get some bad luck! There was also a lot of future plotlines being set up - a disease, the mission to Mars, the scarred 'evil' ape - that I thought was a bit of a cheap shot into getting another film greenlit (if it hadn't been already) and people might moan that, in theory, nothing really happens. What was the affect of the ape onslaught? Just to free apes? What's their overall plan at this stage? Does it matter? Why is the orang-utan so smart? If he has the 12 series medication, when he breathed in the 13 series did that change Caesar even more? So there's a few things, but nothing overly detrimental to the film.

What has to be said is that the CG is absolutely terrific. Compare the apes to the motion capture of say Lord of the Rings and you can see it has clearly come a long way. The way the Apes move, look and especially Caesar's part - played absolutely brilliantly - is a new turning point in live-action animation. Caesar's acting was integral to the film and is authentic, astonishing and mesmerising. Not only this but John Lithgow and James Franco really do pull you through. I just wish the ending had a bit more of an impact.

Don't go in thinking this is all action because it isn't, I'd argue it's a character piece and I don't say this often, but I think it could have done with an extra half hour added onto it. I wanted some parts to be more fleshed out, but the running pace certainly keeps you excited. The action, when it does happen, is brilliantly executed. Rupert Wyatt's first step into big budget Hollywood is a bold one, and one that pays off. This doesn't have to be a cinema film, but it's certainly a thinking man's Planet of the Apes. It just makes you wonder how Burton could have got it all wrong ten years ago.

Highly entertaining, and a real hidden gem in an Inbetweener's summer

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

REVIEW: The X Files (Entire Series)

Warning: X-Files is bad for your mental and physical health. 


I'm sure, like the rest of the world, everyone was aware of The X Files; a Twilight Zone, B-Movie, Monster-of-the-Week series that got people talking and was full of creative, horrifying and often scary ideas. However, even though more and more people got pulled in season after season, fans became irritated and soon lost interest leaving it to be cancelled after 9 successive years.

As a result, and due to my initial love for The X Files, I decided to go back and start from the very beginning and what a journey it was. Keep in mind, every season has about 24/25 episodes which last 45 mins, sometimes longer and that I've been watching it every spare minute since February until last week. If you've been wondering why there hasn't been many movie reviews, or many of anything on this site, it's because X Files has taken up all my time. I've almost killed myself doing it, constantly watching episode after episode until finally after what seems like a lifetime, it comes to an end. Well, apart from the subsequent films. So let me tell you what I thought.

If you speak to Joe Bloggs about X Files, more often than not he'll tell you that he liked the early seasons and then it all went a bit weird. This, to summarise, is pretty much what happened. When X Files had stand-alone weekly episodes, they worked best - obviously like any show, overarching narratives are what keep people hooked continuously, but it was these storylines, the big 'epic' conspiracies etc. that really killed it. It became the victim of it's own self-belief in a world where EVERYTHING is real. There's no doubting anything and the annoying thing is, after seeing so much, going through everything, Scully still refuses to accept some pretty obvious truths. New characters often glide in with cynicism, but this mix of 'real-world' and X Files world contradicts itself constantly and becomes rather infuriating. Not only this but the sagging middle seasons have very, very few episodes which are alright at best. They take the piss out of themselves way too much as well with parodies, self-aware jokes and nonsensical situations like being the stars of a Hollywood movie, going inside a computer game and more to add insult to injury. By the end of it all, you realise that the whole thing is a bloody joke and completely ridiculous. It's either serious or it isn't, the tonal mix is, at times, a welcome relief but soon wears thin.

However, there are some good points. Duchovny goes from enjoying the role of Mulder to mocking it to hating it and then just leaving, only to continue coming back in what you can clearly see is for just the money. Gillian Anderson however holds the whole thing together - in the face of sheer absurdity she brings a gravitas to it that only a real actress can accomplish. Everyone around her knows it's dumb, that X Files had it's day a long time ago, but still she gives every scene her all and doesn't think anything is beneath her.

In spite of this, there's so much I hated about X Files that it's hard to list. The dialogue is terrible, the storyline is ridiculous and full of holes, the acting can be abysmal and annoyingly, they even use past actors again as different roles. What X Files does best is come up with imaginative stories that are completely out-of-the-box, and when it does it right, it really comes through. It's a shame that looking back at 9 years worth of material, that the lows are so low and the highs so high, it's completely unpredictable.

The main surprise and real highlight for me was Robert Patrick as Agent Doggett. Once he enters he brings a real breath of fresh air to the series and is a brilliant counter-point to Scully, the too few episodes where it is just them two are some of my favourite epsiodes of the entire lot. His straight-talking Jersey boy attitude and downright manliness give the show a macho image that it was crucially lacking. A lot of the time Mulder moans, whines, and is annoyingly constantly correct, so that when he reappears with Doggett on the scene, you can't help but root for Patrick when you really feel the writers want you to side with Mulder. It's very well done and it's a shame that it could never take off properly with Robert Patrick being the main character. Part of this was because they tried to team him up with Monica Seles or whatever her name is, some 'pyschic' FBI agent that lacks both depth, charisma and talent - her crutch in life? Cigarettes. Jesus she's bland.

It's a real shame that X Files didn't continue but with a story so out-of-hand, characters bordering on the ridiculous, acting with a lot left to be desired and it's obsession with moving away from simple, one-off stories to big government conspiracies just confused the hell out of me. It's a perfect example of taking something simple and convoluting it to the point where it's no longer identifiable. The last episode, a final attempt to sum up what the hell had been happening was unfortunately too little too late, it had been surfing on it's initial success for too long and this episode shows how stupid the whole thing had become. I highly recommend The X Files, but instead of watching the whole thing, I'd talk to someone like myself and only watch particular episodes. It's not quantity, it's quality. I just wish someone could have told Chris Carter.

Also, why the hell he decided to do a spin-off on the most irritating people on The X Files, The Lone Gunmen, is beyond me.

Some terrible mistakes were made and the show paid the price. When it worked, it really worked. But in reality it was a broken monstrosity that wouldn't look out of place within it's own realm.

Someone give Robert Patrick a job please.


Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 17 July 2011

NEWS: The Thing Trailer Released

<a href='http://http%3A%2F%2Fmovies.msn.com%2Fmovies%2Fmovie-trailers%2F%23%2Fvideo%2Ff749b83d-e1d0-4983-a918-a9c3914b03c0' target='_new' title='&#39;The Thing&#39; Movie Trailer' >Video: &#39;The Thing&#39; Movie Trailer</a>

Oh dear. The remake of The Thing is on it's way and it looks pretty awful. This is supposed to be a prequel, but it's clearly set now and my only hope is that it might end with two uninfected guys trying to shoot a dog from a helicopter (which is how the original Thing kind of opens).
People forget that we don't want an 'origins' - I loved the idea in Carpenter's original that something has already happened, that we've jumped in halfway through an event. Why do we need something to ruin all that? Anyway, I'll probably watch it and hate it. I hate it already from this trailer which changes nothing except clearly has a worse story and looks more 'jumpy' rather than a slow-burn.
What's with all these paranoia based films? It's like McCarthy 'reds in the beds' all over again.

Does anyone remember the game either?

NEWS: Soderbergh's Contagion Trailer



Matt Damon puts on his serious rubber face again as he stars in what looks like a remake of that Dustin Hoffman movie Outbreak based on that Michael Crichton book. It's only towards the end when we see it a bit post-apocalyptic that it starts looking good. This shows a lot of promise but I'm still to go through a whole Matt Damon film without looking at his wooden face and wishing he'd just go away. Yes that includes the Bourne films as well. What do you think?

NEWS: Pixar's 'John Carter' Trailer Released



Pixar have put down their toys and now want to be all grown up and make a sci-fi action blockbuster. So they've decided on a story about a civil war soldier getting sent to another planet to be some kind of hero against aliens or something. Apparently the trailer has caused quite a stir but I think it looks awful. It's like He-Man has walked into the Stargate and come out with a worse name. I'm not a big fan of this but I guess it might be ok....? It's a bit different from Wall-E though.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

REVIEW: Assassin's Creed - Brotherhood

So I finally finish the sequel to ... the sequel in what is rather an addition to Assassin's Creed II rather than a completely new story all together.


The story carries on from pretty much where Assassin's Creed II left off, however Ezio has now basically had that apple thing stolen from him and plans to get it back - with some people to kill along the way. Desmond, his modern day counterpart, is still a bit confused by what's going on inside his head and with the irritating Danny Wallace by his side trying to be funny, you're luckily spending most of your time in Rome.

There are some notable differences though, not only Rome being the main city this time round but also it feels a lot smoother. The hustle and bustle of the city is still mesmorising and I can't help but get completely engrossed in the city, like it's a second home. Brotherhood has advanced some more while Ezio has been away. The idea of renovating different businesses to increase your income is quite an obsessive distraction, however having to kill a nearby head guard person to allow you to do it can be rather tiresome and systematic. The main idea of 'Brotherhood' though is the quite innovative notion of recruiting assassin's and sending them out around the world on missions. Not only do they get stronger and level up as you go along, but during gameplay you can call on them to take out enemies. However, once I'd realised this, completing certain missions became a piece of cake and sometimes made the game a whole lot easier. It's a blessing and a curse.

There's not much to criticise here as Assassin's Creed II was a great piece of gaming and this adds a whole new layer to it but lacks the character depth of it's predecessor. I enjoyed the narrative of the second one, but then this was never meant to be anything to drive the narrative forward apart from the shocker ending. If you haven't played any of these games before, this is a great one to delve into as it has all the glorious benefits from the other titular games but keeps things quite simple. I couldn't be bothered to try and do the game 100%, which I did for the last one as I really felt I'd had enough jumping around and assassinating to last a lifetime, but there's a whole lot here that can keep you occupied for a long time to come.

A lot of this time-consuming business is also a lot of jumping around dark caves, cellars and what-not as you try to negotiate yourself around places. I sometimes wish it didn't have these points, as it lacks the excitement that something like Uncharted would have, and it just turns into some weird platform-esque game, which I can really be doing without. After a while, you just want to stop climbing and jumping around and falling only to do it again and again.

The graphics look great, the city is beautiful, the gameplay exquisite and the story-line, though a little bit cobbled together to get another Ezio story out, still proves to be engaging and fun nonetheless. Had this been more of a turning point for the narrative, then I would give this a higher mark but as it stands, it really is just a bridge to what I would like to have been Assassin's Creed 3 but instead is another Ezio storyline in Assassin's Creed Revelations. It goes to show what great games truly can achieve when you try something different.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 9 July 2011

NEWS: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

This has to be the strangest poster ever.


Imagine a world without Planet of the Apes, not just the Tim Burton monstrosity, but without the entire saga. Now imagine an industry executive sitting in his big leather chair, smoking a huge cigar and guffawing about how much money he's making. In comes a sprightly young lad
 "I have an idea"
 "Well go ahead kid, that's what I pay you for!"
 "A world where apes get super smart and take over the world."
"What will we call it son?"
"Rise of The Planet Of The Apes"
"I love it! What's the poster like?"
"It's a city burning in the background, but really it's just a big monkey with his fist in the air with loads of monkeys behind him"
"Sold."

Somehow I couldn't imagine anyone thinking that this poster is a good idea. It completely lacks integrity, imagination and just looks stupid. Are these attributes going to apply to the film? Probably.

The trailer looks interesting, but 'interesting' in that I don't know what it's supposed to be. The end sequences with apes wreaking havoc look like Jumanji and I can't imagine this film offering anything new. James Franco might be leading the way but Rupert Wyatt really only has The Escapist to his name, which didn't do amazingly well but was supposed to be good. What do you guys think? Excited at all? Do you like the poster?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

REVIEW: The Karate Kid

Another Hollywood remake, but this time a worthy one.


Okay, so this film has been out for a while, but it's the first film I've seen for a while as I'm on Season 8 now of The X Files (so so close) and it's been eating up all my time, but I'm now committed to finishing it and ended up just sticking this on and was pleasantly surprised.

My immediate problem was that I hate Will Smith. I find his 'acting' unbearable and his cockiness which might seem endearing I find rather irritating and let's be honest, he's not a great rapper either (as much as I know on the subject of rapping), so the idea of his offspring kicking butt at 12 or however old he is already grates. But then I do like his daughters 'Whip My Hair' and so didn't want to hate poor Jaden straight away. What's funny is that Jaden Smith might be just like a mini Will Smith, but I already think he's a better actor than his dad has ever been. It sounds strange, but I felt completely engaged with his character and what could have ended up quite cheesy actually felt rather sincere. Jaden isn't afraid of taking a knock, looking like a twat and generally being a bit wet but with that fight inside that he wants to unleash. People forget that it is that idea of spiritual self-defense that is mirrored through kung-fu, his battle isn't physical at all but rather his coming-of-age, of defeating his demons and being appreciated as an adult, the tournament is a weird Bar Mitzvah of sorts. This remake doesn't lose that essence, but instead reinforces it with a fish-out-of-water, scared kid in a completely different world trying to fit in. It's taken the idea of maturing into the foreign adult world by making it more literal - and it works.

As much as Jaden surpasses my meagre expectations by taking his self-assuredness of his dad and mixing it with a touch of humility whilst still showing off some impressive stunts for a kid, the real heart of the story is Chan. You have to love Chan. Here he is a disheartened old man that must himself learn to abolish his inner demons and you feel he has been truly battered by life and lost that will to carry on. Instead he is merely falling from one event to another until Jaden snaps him out of it and gives him 'focus'. It's a rather sweet story, without being drenched in cliche, of a father/son relationship. It's clear Jaden is missing a father figure (which is never discussed, something I feel didn't need explanation in today's kids films where every kid watching must be treated like an idiot, so a definite plus) and at the same time Chan is missing a son figure, it's something that works without seeming too cheesy, a delicate balance that it maintains throughout.

There are a few minor complaints, it's clearly meant for kids so the love story feels quite innocent, but collapses into cheesy montages quite often associated with similar children's films, but it can't be blamed for that. Neither can it be blamed for making the tournament's scoreboard look like something from the future, also with camera angles from angles we've just seen (if that makes sense, and also where are the cameras when they pull out?). Neither can it be blamed for it's simple story, it's these simple stories that work best, it didn't need anything more convoluted. However, kids jumping over walls is a bit much and even though there's a lot of training, I do wish there had been a bit more fighting as what Jaden did was impressive, but I just wish I'd seen more of it - and of course, more Chan action.

Chan's training makes just as much sense as Miyagi's back in the day, it's simple unassuming chores building up muscle, skill sets and yet also teaching respect that gets to the heart of the story. Jaden does need to learn to grow up (the jacket being a constant symbol of this) and his mother, played wonderfully by Taraji Henson, adds the light comic relief. The love interest is more to do with his love of Chinese culture, she's just a symbol, albeit a pretty one, and even though it might seem to add to the quite long running time, I think it fits quite nicely and never at any point did I think it went on too long.

Another slight issue is that it sometimes feels like a tourist video for China, all the landmarks look wonderful, everything looks great and it's never portrayed in a particularly negative light, and if so there is usually an element of redemption by the end. Having never been, I can't say what it's like, but I imagine it doesn't quite fulfill the Hollywood gloss this has, but then, what ever does?

Chan said he'd do it if it was called The Kung-Fu Kid but the stupid studios changed it back to The Karate Kid. Why bother? The people who remember the original would be older than me now (the original was released in 1984) and by calling it The Kung-Fu Kid (as it was anyway in some places) would have been indicative of it's clear progression from a standard remake. The studios missed a trick there, and hopefully they won't make any sequels but just leave it for the nice little gem of a kid's film that it is. In the grander scale of overall cinema, it might seem quite a low score, but I would think that if you go in with an open mind, you'll come out pleasantly surprised. I certainly was.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 13 June 2011

NEWS: E3 In A Nutshell

Here's the best of E3 in no certain order in quite short little bits:

Tekken Vs Street Fighter WILL happen and looks pretty good

Batman Arkham City WILL have Catwoman - and she looks good. Also Robin looks like an available character. Weird.

Mass Effect 3 looks EPIC! Coming 2012. It'll also feature use of Kinect!

Talking of Kinect, Star Wars Kinect looks pretty fucking cool.

Assassin's Creed Revelations is about Ezio (again) and will be available November 15th and is just another stepping stone to Assassin's Creed 3. It seems people love Ezio too much, the smarmy bugger. Also coming to Wii U. What is Wii U again?

Basically it's a massive handheld controller with a touchscreen, it's HD and is supposed to be more powerful than a PS3 and 360. I'm dubious. There's been too much emphasis on the controller apparently and people just don't know what it is, or what it's supposed to do. As such, shares have fallen and the head of Nintendo even admitted he got it wrong. No-one really knows what it is, or whether they should actually care. It even cheekily used 360 and PS3 footage for it's launch. Naughty U.

Mario Kart 3DS might save Nintendo's poor sales of the unit

Aliens: Colonial Marines has now finally been set a date in 2012. It's been talked about for a while but I doubt it will impress much.

Resident Evil is getting TWO games for 3DS. Single player 'story' type game Revelations and arcade type game The Mercenaries. Revelations has Jill in it. Poor girl.

Also Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City has a trailer that makes it look absolutely awesome. Can't wait!

New Tomb Raider game looks pretty bloody amazing! But reminds me of Uncharted, demo was very impressive....

Playstation Vita will be region free. Don't know what it is? Only Sony's new portable gaming machine. If you're not up to date, it comes with dual quad-core processors, an OLED touchscreen, front and rear facing cams, 3G optional, rear touchscreen panel, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and looks pretty neat. Apparently it's quite big though, but has dual thumbsticks and the screens a whopping 5 inches. Pretty good. As well as Uncharted, there will be a new Bioshock as well created just for Vita.

Duke Nukem Forever looks shit. Surprise.

New Star Trek co-op game where you play Kirk and Spock. Think Kane and Lynch in space perhaps?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (pft) to be released. I never got into Oblivion really, but I'm sure a lot of people will be excited about this.

Alan Wake: Night Springs has still not got off the ground, let alone hit E3

I'm not a big fan of Need For Speed but their latest title The Run looks like it might pull something out of the bag. A coast to coast getaway - I like it!

New Silent Hill game! Downpour! It's supposed to be a stand alone game, and as they always say, more about the original. However, graphics look dodgy to say the least. Is this really going to be on PS3? When can I get the original one anyway?

Well if you can't get the original, you can still get Shattered Memories (with multiplayer? weird), Silent Hill 2 (my favourite) and Silent Hill 3 on the Silent Hill collection that will be all in HD and all that.

So I like Dance Central? So what? Dance Central 2 is coming out and I'm a bit excited. OK? Get over it.

New Xbox dashboard is ALL about Kinect.

Jurassic Park game? Seriously? Isn't that just Dino Crisis?

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record looks like the same old stuff. I don't want a Dead Rising 3 - please make something else Capcom.

An HD Zelda thing or something as well. Never played it though. Is it big news?

I really liked Prototype so I'm a bit excited about Prototype 2 which looks pretty darn amazing. Did anyone else play the original?

Final Fantasy XIII-2 looks really, really boring.

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater to get the 3D treatment on 3DS. Whoop! MGS 2 and 3 and Peace Walker is going to be part of the collection. Also Zone of the Enders (ZOE) will be coming out as a collection, for those who haven't played it - I bloody loved it and well worth to see what it's like in HD. When are we going to see the new MGS though? With Raiden?!! Huh??!!! Original MGS is set to be remade separately and will get a complete reworking. Can't wait!

The Darkness 2 is the sequel to the under-appreciated The Darkness, and it's been a long time coming. I thoroughly enjoyed gangster turned monster Jackie, in a revenge thriller that verged on dark horror. This time round he is the Don of the family and apparently this time The Darkness attached to him can do a whole lot more than just rip people apart.

Gears of War 3? Yes please. Looks fan-bloody-tastic.

Bioshock: Infinite (NOT a sequel) is going to blow people away.

MGS: Peace Walker, which I've played for about ten minutes on the PSP, is coming to PS3 - with some other surprises. Have I said this already? Probably.

Uncharted 3 will make me weep it will be so excruciatingly good. However, Uncharted: Golden Abyss on PSVita looks absolutely incredible.

So that's it in a nutshell. The bare bones really. To be honest, Wii U was the only surprise really. We already knew about Vita. We knew what games were going to be coming out (yes Modern Warfare 3 as well) but nothing really shook E3 this year. I'd say Tomb Raider was the sleeper hit. Anyone else agree?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

REVIEW: Cedar Rapids

Ed Helms plays a strange version of Andy Bernard as his nice-guy-puppy-dog-eyes routine gets a bit old ...


This is a strange mix of director Arteta's usual melancholia drowned in existentialist comedy (The Good Girl, Youth In Revolt) with the upbeat frat-pack style type of humour. It makes for a slightly unsettling and uncomfortable viewing experience that leaves you wondering what you've just watched.

The story goes that Ed Helms' character Tim is a small-town guy selling insurance taking his first trip to an insurance do at Cedar Rapids. It soon becomes a tale of self-discovery as he starts learning to let loose and have a grander view of the world. This is done with the help of some friends along the way, namely John C Reilly doing his best Will Ferrell impression (that seems to be his idol after all), The Wire's Isiah Whitlock Jr (who actually references and even quotes The Wire), and lesbian Anne Heche who I swear hasn't done anything for ages. Tim is in love with his ex-school teacher that he's shagging (a remarkably good looking Sigourney Weaver) in a rather Oedipal way but his backward, conservative, rather sweet view of the world becomes corrupted when he loses his innocence in different, humorous ways.

Ed Helms is at his best here when he's let loose but the real star is Reilly who is clearly enjoying his role as a loud mouth, egotistical, brash salesman who doesn't care what people think of him. Along the way he has to win some award and Tim's fragile view of the world is shattered, there's some type of redemption here and salvation, but overall it becomes a strange sequence of events about people I neither care about nor believe exist. Tim's 'Aw shucks' naivety becomes grating and the jokes are few and far between. However, there are some great moments and memorable quotes and the idea of Cedar Rapids as some kind of Shangri La or, in more obvious terms, the city of Sodom in a more toned down fashion, is quite humorous.

It's rather slow with a few laugh out loud moments but it cannot save it from the rather drab, confusing and partially irritating feel of it all. Am I supposed to be grossed out? Am I supposed to be moved? Am I supposed to laugh here? A good ninety minutes where I wasn't bored, but not enough here that gets deep enough, or gets me laughing enough to justify a higher mark. Average at best.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 2 June 2011

REVIEW: Unknown

Liam Neeson gets back in action as he channels his Taken character and turns into another man-on-a-mission, Bourne-type identity search.

Identity theft is a massive problem, but when instead of some nob using your credit card in another country, they take over your life so completely that even your wife denies that you're you and then you run into ... you. It's a whole other level of fraud.

The film begins with January Jones and Liam Neeson (a bit of an age difference maybe) getting off a plane and then he forgets his briefcase. Oh dear. He ventures back to get it but gets in an accident and then finds that he's been replaced by some weirdo. The problem is that I pretty much figured it out immediately, and it ruined the whole experience of the film but never mind. What happens is Liam Neeson tries to prove that he is really who he is while people are trying to kill him along the way, he shacks up with Diane Kruger and then it gets a bit revenge-ish as the pieces fall into place.

Simple enough plot and it kept me entertained throughout, with some good chase scenes that didn't get too ridiculous but remained believable in the context of the plot. Berlin also gets a good portrayal as they go from landmarks to clubs to hotels and all over, but the problem is I've seen it before. The other problem is that the whole time it's almost laughable how Neeson just looks like a crazy idiot spouting nonsense and there are a few plotholes along the way. However, there are some highlights, for instance the Stasi guy played by Hitler from Downfall makes a very understated performance as a man obsessed with details and somewhat trying to repent for past sins of himself and perhaps Germany. His scene with Frank Langella, a too brief appearance, is probably it's strongest, a slow yet knowingly respectful old school way of thinking in a film I'd never thought I'd see these two acting heavyweights in.

The directing is subtle but it works, it's a throwaway movie that will keep people entertained. The passiveness of Jones is something that grates in that, much like Betty in Mad Men, she looks emotionally dead inside, perhaps why she has been chosen and I'm not sure if she's a good actress or not. I'll leave this up for debate. Neeson gives it all like he always does, no matter how terrible the film and I hope that he still does more action films as I have to say he's one of my favourite actors.

Overall, there's nothing here you wouldn't have seen elsewhere before and, even if you do figure it out sooner rather than later, it's still quite an enjoyable ride albeit a stupid one.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 26 May 2011

REVIEW: Portal 2

From the ashes of Half Life 2 came a weird creature called Portal that created quite a stir and ended up having a rather large, cult following. It was an attachment with The Orange Box which went on to sell millions and Portal itself had apparently revolutionised the puzzle genre in a way that hadn't been seen since perhaps Tetris. Now Portal 2 is here - so what's all the fuss about?


Truth be told I never got into Portal. In fact I never got into Half Life 2, I never really got into Counterstrike and I never even completed Half Life. However, such was the excitement for Portal 2 and that I kept being repeatedly told that I would enjoy it that I thought I'd give this game a go.

Essentially, it's beauty is in it's complexity in simplicity. Even though all you do is point, shoot and occasionally jump, it becomes a joy to solve each and every puzzle and the reason why is because of the physics involved with using portals. You have a gun that shoots two different portals, an orange one and a blue one, and that's it. You can only shoot them onto certain surfaces, but when you do you can walk through them. That's the entire game. However, where you place them and how you get to certain places is the trick and once you've figured it out you can't help but feel the satisfaction that you were able to figure out something that was actually very complicated.

If you get to a certain height for instance and put a portal beneath you, with a second portal in the distance which happens to be at a 45 degree angle then when you fall into the portal, it will launch you in the air on the other side of the room. This might not make sense, but this is probably one of the simplest tricks you have to learn how to use in order to continue through the game. Along the way there are buttons, holo-bridges, mini turret robots and different liquids that let you bounce, speed up and more. All you need to know is nothing is there on accident, everything has a purpose. Including the little blocks that really do help.

It's extremely well thought out and makes the puzzle solving enjoyable without being too easy yet not frustrating either - a hard line to manage and one that Portal 2 successfully pulls off. However, my problem is that it actually relies too heavily on the puzzle solving and, as a full game, I thought it fell rather short of delivering a fully packaged experience.

Firstly, the plot carries on from the first Portal (I think) and so everything that was once bright, white and shiny has been slightly ruined. Stephen Merchant plays the robot helping you out and provides the laughs, but in a sense his voice is so unique that you can't help but think of his face rather than the robot. At the same time, his voice acting, especially near the end is laughable for different reasons and even though it's meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek in his very self-aware way, it takes away from the immersive experience of the game. The graphics are also somewhat dated and it just feels like a PC game from about 5 years ago. The sound is almost awful at times, often a signature riff is heard when you're doing different things to do with the puzzle but  it sounded cheap and farcical. The plot of merely trying to escape is simple enough, but you'd rather just solve the puzzles and Portal 2 knows this. So it does have a story, but it's always trying to move you on to the next puzzle, which is probably a good thing.

I enjoyed this game, but thought that so much time had been spent developing the puzzles that by adding a nice, whole story they thought they could sell it as a full game when I thought it was rather short. The co-op was something I dabbled with, and would work well if with the right person but I can imagine it could get very frustrating very fast. Overall, the puzzle element was amazing and well worth it, but as a gaming experience I'd rather there just be a whole load of levels as I really wasn't bothered about the story. Great, simple and a whole lot of fun but it's not one of the best games I've ever played - I enjoyed it as much as I enjoy sitting down with a book of sudokus - which might give me a whole heap of satisfaction but doesn't necessarily make it one of my favourite books.

Great fun, but smash it out over a few days and move on.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 20 May 2011

NEWS: First Look At Tom Hardy As Bane In Dark Knight Rises

Here it is! The first look at the absolutely huge Tom Hardy as Bane. If you thought he was big in Bronson, this shows that the man can really bulk up

Sunday, 15 May 2011

REVIEW: Wild Beasts - Smother

After one of my favourite albums of all time, the Mercury nominated Two Dancers, Wild Beasts return with their third highly-anticipated album Smother. Is it the big spectacle we were expecting? Well, not quite.

Firstly, it somehow feels more personal with Hayden Thorpe taking over most of the vocal duties in a more softer, genteel approach than what people might be more used to. This isn't a Summer album, instead it feels like you're in a snowy lonely cabin reminiscing of better times and that girl who caught your eye. The melancholy seeps through like happy gas leaving you in a meditative, self-aware state that is hard to put down in words.

Album opener Lion's Share sets the scene for the more clean, open, honest and remarkably different sound from Wild Beasts that steps away from those lingering distorted guitars, to a more progressive sound that isn't as instantly fetching. This isn't to say it's not as good as Two Dancers, it's just different. Bed of Nails has a Talk Talk inspired backdrop that uses a lot of toms and continues the rather subtle emotion and repressed anxiety that Wild Beasts have directed their sound towards. It's in Deeper that we see the full beauty of why they have chosen this. I couldn't help but think this reminded me of when Tears For Fears took a similar direction with Songs From The Big Chair, a very strange comparison perhaps but slightly apt. It's longing, without the signature reverb, makes you feel like you're in the room with them, that they are speaking directly to you, and feels that perhaps it's slightly under-produced, something that only a great producer can achieve.

This means that this is one hell of an atmospheric record, something not to listen to lightly and has a deep, raw tranquillity that a song like Loop The Loop pulls up from the bottom of the soul to make a rather light, easy on the ears result that might be a bit too bongo heavy (which can be said for the whole record really), but leaves me in a strange mood that I can't quite put my finger on. It could be perhaps the rather direct lyrics of pain, passion, beauty, death and a lot of sex - this is Wild Beasts after all. Plaything symbolises the sexual element in more blatant terms but it's boiled down appreciation for the sound of music is unparalleled. Fleming takes over in Invisible and I'd have to say, I find him a lot more impressive than Thorpe, not because of talent, or because he sounds like a crying Tom Smith or Morrissey, but it has an almost operatic quality that Thorpe's slightly emotive whining Antony Hegarty sound can sometimes lack. However, Invisible is a bit of a 'skipper' and it's when next track, and released single, Albatross comes up that you realise that this isn't an album of singles, perhaps like Two Dancers, but an album that must be listened to as a whole. Invisible was a pre-cursor to Albatross and so on and so forth. It requires dedication, not that it's hard work, but it's something that deserves respect and attention, which you can't really say about much other music out there.

Reach A Bit Further returns to that Eighties New Wave drum sound and has a chorus that I can't help but well up for. People forget that the vocal melodies Wild Beasts are able to pull off are exquisite and pulls me in with a love for this album that at a first listen, I never would have thought about. It certainly grows on you and I've found myself looking forward to playing this album on my commute, of being transported to this world that Wild Beasts have created. It might be the My Bloody Valentine sound of next track Burning that gets me going, I just can't help but feel they have taken bits from a lot of bands that I have always loved and made a literal work of art. End Come Too Soon is a rather spot-on title, it's a slow burner that builds up much like a Sigur Ros track that might teeter on a dirge, but for a song that lasts 7 minutes, it feels like it runs away rather quickly and leaving us somewhat ungratified.

People forget that Wild Beasts are perfect songwriters, every single note is accounted for, meticulously sweated over for hours and yet sounds so effortlessly pleasing. They lead the way for not only musicians in the UK but also the world in what real music is about - their brave talented ballsy music isn't made for anyone but themselves, which is the way it should be. They clearly feel very strongly about their music and what might be something very different from Two Dancers but still so beautiful in a different way, shows just what these boys can do.

The only problems I had is that even though this is a different kettle of fish than Two Dancers, I am more than likely to return to their previous album than I am this. It's an incredible album from one of our best bands, but for people to give it full marks might be too over-zealous, after all I think this is a band that I wish to develop, grow and get better and I don't want to think they have peaked already. Smother is a more relaxed affair with a sombre touch but I still feel it's lacking in that hard hitting punch that an audience want, but then it's not what the audience wants that matters. I was never expecting another Two Dancers, I wasn't expecting this either, but people have to be honest and admit that this just doesn't reach the heady heights of it's predecessor but then I feel like it was never supposed to. Those who write for the top papers, magazines etc. will wet themselves over this record, but these were the guys that dismissed Two Dancers until it got a Mercury nomination, the same people who listened to it going 'Isn't that the Santander advert?', the same people that think it's cool to love a band like this. They should be honest and say that this album isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea but thank God it's mine, and I don't want another Two Dancers, but I just hope their next offering goes in another direction as well because I think they've got Smother's sound covered.

Rating: 8/10