Wednesday, 5 September 2012

NEWS: Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes & New Film

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW: Sleeping Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

REVIEW: Compliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 9/10

Monday, 6 August 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 3 August 2012

NEWS: Batman Prequel Will Have New Writer

Not that Batman ... The computer one

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

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

Thursday, 2 August 2012

REVIEW: The Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes that includes KickAss - which was okay.

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

Rating: 6/10

TRAILER: Paranormal Activity 4

Please ... stop making them....

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

In my pants.

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

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

NEWS: The Shining ... 2?

"Perfect for a child"

That's my favourite line by the way.

I don't know why, I just think because it jars so much, it's a bit creepy and it's Jack speaking it.

Anyway, if it wasn't enough to completely rape the memory of beloved films - Warner Bros are looking to do a (yawn) prequel to The Shining. Basically about that guy who chopped up his daughters. Wasn't the whole point of what made Shining scary that you DIDN'T know exactly what happened to him?

I wish these people would just go and fucking shoot themselves in the head. How can they even look at themselves in the mirror and say they are trying to further the film industry by defacating all over the shining lights of cinema.

Though if there's to be any salvation, Shutter Island writer Laeta Kalogridis is potentially onboard, so might save it from complete direness.

NEWS: Prometheus Sequel Announced

Ridley Scott has confirmed that he is pushing for a Prometheus sequel to arrive in 2014 or 2015

After having made over £250 million and not even being released on DVD and all that yet. However for those who hated the sci-fi 'prequel' to Alien, they might be pleased to hear that Damon Lindelof will not be involved.

Ridley Scott is apparently working on Blade Runner 2, let's hope that's a bit better.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

NEWS: Larry David Movie In Works

Pretty....pretty ... pretty good.

At least I hope it will be.

Larry David will be releasing a feature with John Hamm and Michael Keaton in association with Fox Searchlight that will probably be an HBO feature rather than a full on cinema release.

Here's hoping it fairs better than Sour Grapes. Who has actually seen that movie? Can someone lend it to me?

TRAILER: Cloud Atlas

So firstly, the Wachowski brothers are back. Wait, brothers? Well Larry is now Lana and had a proper full on sex change. So ... Lana and Andy Wachowski. Oh and there's a third director - Run Lola Run's Tom Tykwer. This is based on David Mitchell's novel and is a bit like The Fountain, in that it's the same characters through past, present and future and the future looks pretty amazing. To announce the film, a 5 minute trailer has been released because it looks pretty epic and a bit mad. But I love that. Nothing quite like ambition and why not? Take a look below and I'd be interested in what people think

ARTICLE: Silent Hill: Revelations 3D & Why Games To Films Don't Always Work

Welcome to Silent Hill.... Again.

I am a big fan of Silent Hill and when I say, Silent Hill, I mean the games not the film - and when I say the games I mean the first, well ... three - and when I say the first three I mean, Silent Hill 2.

It must be said that Silent Hill 2 was one of the greatest games I've played - mainly because it understood that it wasn't a town, it was a state of mind. Silent Hill doesn't exist - it's where you go to be judged. Never before had the ending of a game hit me with such an emotional shock that it made me reconsider the hours and hours I'd invested beforehand with this character. It was amazing,  however, the rest of the games (Homecoming, Downpour etc. which I've played but never reviewed simply because they are so bad I don't want to relive the experience) have failed to reach the heady heights.

The first Silent Hill was great but more a bag of ideas than an amazing game, if you go back to play it again (you can download from PSN store) you'll see how awful the controls are, the voice acting and all that, but the right feeling was there. It could be said that the first Silent Hill film was similar. It had the right idea, it was a mixed bag of Silent Hill 1 and 2, it just failed because it wasn't scary, there was poor acting and it failed to compel. Visually it worked, but there was no real depth. Why they didn't take the story from Silent Hill 2 is beyond me - and it looks like Silent Hill Revelations is a film adaptation of Silent Hill 3 therefore completely skipping over the best game of the series. Very strange.

There's the running argument that games into films just don't work. The main reason is because you can't simply transfer the ideas to a big screen. Silent Hill works as a game because you invest a lot of time into the people, you are truly scared of dying so you don't have to restart from the last save point, you slowly reveal what happens, and to fit in this process into 90 minutes when it usually takes 9 hours or so is tough, especially when people are so concerned about taking the best bits when Silent Hill works best as a slow-burner, with the pay-off's being more story based than 'monster' based. It's not the monsters that scare you, it's the lead-up and anticipation, it's the humans and their motives.

Silent Hill, like all good horror, knows that these monsters, this world, is just an extension of the psyche of the protagonist but the film made it seems like it was a ghostly alternate dimension or something. It just didn't work.

So we come to Revelations where the main pull is that it's in 3D. Unfortunately, I'm going to the cinema to see it, same as every new Silent Hill game that comes out I have to buy and complete - full well knowing that it will be shit, but there's this hope, this glimmer, that maybe I might be able to revisit that Silent Hill I love and detest at the same time, but every time I'm disappointed.

This trailer speaks volumes in that there's again no depth, but looks great

Sunday, 22 July 2012

REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

The last of the trilogy is upon us, people are dying to see it, literally, so is it worth it?

No matter what people say, for me The Dark Knight was an incredible film and one of my favourite movies of all time, so it is very hard to think of another Batman film that could trump it. Unfortunately, I don't think this is it.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great movie. The action is great, it's sheer scale and spectacle is incredible but it falls short on a lot of things. Lets begin with the plot, we begin eight years after the Joker and Wayne is a little worse for wear let's say. It's a time of peace and Harvey Dent is still seen as a hero with Batman as the villain, however we are told 'a storm is coming' and Bane brings with him a chaos that puts Gotham in a lot of jeopardy.

Before going any further, I think it's worth mentioning that if you look at the evolution from Batman Begins to the Dark Knight, the leap is rather more significant than you would have first thought. It's worth revisiting both these films if you haven't done so recently, watching Rises, I felt Nolan had tied himself down with having to conclude the story the same as Begins is preoccupied with having to be an 'origins' tale at heart. With Dark Knight, I felt Nolan was able to relax in having established Batman and could have some fun with him and in the Gotham world - something I did not feel in Rises. In fact, I didn't feel Gotham was a character at all.

Of course, the entire Batman saga is not just about the idea of self-sacrifice (the 'symbol'), but also a man conquering his inner demons. Rises deals with this, but not in the same subtle way as Dark Knight. Instead it takes the whole 'humanity is corrupt' nature and exploits it, almost going completely against what the Batman saga has built up so far. When the city is plunged in chaos, I don't get a feel for what is actually going on apart from a few sweeping shots. Where is everyone? What exactly is going on? Why doesn't anyone do anything? I felt cheated and the city in anarchy isn't represented very well at all. It just looks like a few people dithering about every now and then. Even the people trapped don't seem too hard up. In fact it just looks, empty, and I don't know what blowing a lot of stuff up really did as well, apart from ease access to and from the city. Apart from for Wayne of course.

The new flying vehicle the Bat also makes matters worse. The toys that he has played with before in the previous films made some kind of sense in that this could happen in our real world, however the Bat feels a little too sci-fi for me. Also, everything I disliked about Batman Begins comes back up - the League of Shadows, terrorism through the economy (hinted at by Liam Neeson in the Begins), the sense of 'training' (do I have to see him in the middle east again? Even if he seems to be ... oh ... right by a city?) and by introducing characters that I don't want to work at getting to know by a third film. Where Dark Knight had every scene being needed, moving the story forward, being full of action, not a line of dialogue wasted - there were times in Rises where I felt it could have been cut completely, or some parts expanded upon. It wasn't as tight as Dark Knight was in the slightest and not near as interesting or action packed. There's also a bit of humour which was scarce in Dark Knight but feels like the jokes that were on the cutting room floor of Begins - why are we putting jokes in? To alleviate the tension? I like the tension, it's what I enjoy.

So, let's move onto characters. Bale shines again as Batman, going from skinny hermit to the bulky mass he was before but he has lost his enthusiasm. There's not been any real reason for this except for what happened to Rachel, he's made no attempt to clear his name and to be honest, I thought there was very little actual Batman time, he doesn't turn up for a while for a start. However, his journey as a character does conclude nicely and I think with something that befits what Wayne was truly about.

Moving on from this is it gets worse. Even Alfred becomes nothing but a nuisance, and with a script that has some pretty poor dialogue, Alfred definitely gets the brunt of it. Catwoman is boring and tries to be femme fatale but completely falls flat. She talks of her stealing to get by when she couldn't look more posh and well groomed. Her story is just boring, Anne Hathaway not being sexy at all and neither giving much away in terms of depth. All we know is that she's supposed to have a bit of a heart, however when her and Batman are standing together I can't help but feel that I'm definitely watching a comic book movie, something I really wish I wasn't thinking.

Then there's Blake, Gordon-Levitt's cop, who if you ask me, apart from one reason, should have been cut out altogether. These little B stories are nothing compared to Dent's, who actually had an impact on the main narrative. Blake just feels like he's something to keep our attention going while other things are going on. Levitt does a good job but every time he came on screen I was just waiting for the next scene. Same goes with Cotillard's Miranda Tate as, apart from near the end, she's completely disposable.

So let's move onto Bane. Firstly, they have cranked up the volume of his mask from the IMAX preview, which is great but then completely jars with the film as it's not mixed into the scene, so no matter what, it sounds like he's standing right next to you shouting in your ear. Bane is the antithesis of Batman, it's his alter ego, his own personal devil. Batman states that he wears a mask for other people, Bane's mask is for himself, but they don't really go into what the mask is actually for. Why is he living in a sewer like the Turtles? Surely the whole point of League of Shadows was that people are inherently evil and Gotham inparticular. Well if Gotham has no crime, why are the League even bothering? If it is because Bane is a madman, then it still makes no sense as he doesn't have any real motive, not even when we find out about his backstory are we still given an absolute clear motive, and it's also very, very creepy. How old is he supposed to be then? It's all very strange.

There is also the fact that all you can see is his eyes, there's only so much eye acting someone can do, even Tom Hardy, and because of his size I was just thinking it was Bronson back again. His talking like a posh English lord is also offputting, why does everything sound so strange that he says? There is also the argument that he has thought up this amazing plan to plunge Gotham into chaos but in no way is this anything like the intricacy of Joker's plans. That's what made Joker so interesting, he thrived on chaos when in fact the whole progression of events were planned with ingenuity. Bane just doesn't cut it - he's not scary, neither twisted and is just a big macho strongman who speaks posh in a Darth vader toy mask. Neither does he make Batman question himself like Joker did, Joker was from nowhere - he was almost an apparition sent to test Batman and it became a personal rivalry. You went away from Dark Knight thinking that if Joker had failed everything, that if he had made Batman doubt his own integrity it would have been worth it. Not the same for Bane. His weird leadership of Gotham for it being to pure anarchy just feels a bit ... stupid dare I say. Why is he so intent on it? I just didn't get it. Joker also truly tested the people of Gotham, all the anarchy and chaos that happened was almost the result of being self-inflicted or taking advantage of people's horrid nature. Rises just doesn't have that depth.

Where Dark Knight was dark in nature, Rises feels like it's been forced to try and be dark, to be completely hopeless and in despair so the 'rising' can be more dramatic - and it is dramatic. You can't help but root for Batman throughout but I really did feel that this last appearance was let down. It was a step backward rather than a step forward and it makes me wonder if they might have used Heath Ledger again had he been alive, would we have had a different film? Perhaps. The film was way too long and takes place over an extremely long period of time where you can't help but think it's all a bit stupid, baring in mind Dark Knight takes place over a matter of days.

I really wish I could sit here and say this film was incredible because a lot of people are. But it's not. It's good but where Dark Knight was perfection, Rises has too much to live up to and loses its way (but it's better than Begins I'd say). It doesn't continue even in the same vein, it's almost as if (apart from Dent/Rachel) it's completely forgotten what happened in the previous film. I really do wish that Nolan hadn't said just three, he could have really explored the world and characters a little longer. I mean, hell, it's been going on for decades in the comics. Not enough action, too much talking, not a great script, ties up ends from first film but loses a lot along the way. Good effort, but next time try harder. Oh wait ....

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 15 July 2012

REVIEW: Spec Ops The Line

The thinking man's Call of Duty ...

I must say, I'm always dubious about war games that try to emulate Call of Duty but after playing the demo of this game, I found that it was a third person shooter that looked quite cool and was nothing like the Call of Duty games whatsoever. But now, after finishing the game, I found it to be quite a deep and somewhat profound study on war that is the complete antithesis to everything Call of Duty is about.

Firstly, on a completely aesthetic standpoint, the game looks pretty good - but not great. The haze of the sun and sand works well, but it's nothing to write home about. It does have its moments but never was I truly thinking it was a step up - it's definite proof that we need a new console to start pushing boundaries. However, some of the set pieces were impressive and I loved the design.

The control system though is somewhat irritating. Often, I find myself sprinting to standing and trying to find cover and trying not to die, it makes for a completely annoying, rough ride that could have done with being a bit more refined. Five years ago, I might have let a control system like this get by, but not nowadays. Also, the team squad based techniques are good, but somewhat pointless. It feels like an afterthought rather than an integral part of the game.

The AI had its moments but what was really annoying was when your AI team-mates would be dying asking for your help and they have run off ahead or stayed behind leaving you, through no fault of your own, to have to save them. It could be argued this is somewhat 'realistic' but, it's not, it's a mistake in my eyes I'm afraid.

That's the surface stuff, which can all be forgiven when it comes to the story and other nice little details that they've thought about. If you don't know already, The Line is set in a post-apocalyptic Dubai. The city had undergone a huge sandstorm and the 33rd battalion, under a General Conrad, were told to evacuate the city. However, there was no trace of the survivors or the 33rd. They then get a message saying that the evacuation was a failure and the losses heavy, so Walker and his two squad are told to recon the area and report back. But then, it all goes a bit wrong...

The game is loosely based on Heart of Darkness (Conrad being an obvious indicator) and therefore of course, more importantly, Apocalypse Now. Once you enter Dubai, you see that it's a complete war zone between the locals and the 33rd led by Conrad who have now taken over the city. You also see that the CIA have got involved to keep things under wraps so a full scale war between America and UAE doesn't break out and soon you find yourself being targeted by everyone in this crossfire.

The Line is essentially a commentary on the full horror of war. Your squad are not happy that they keep delving further when they should just leave and report back. They are, after all, killing American soldiers. After a traumatic event, events start to spiral out of control and, as a result, the game becomes a piece about Walker's fragile state of being. His actions, and ultimately your choices, soon put him on a path that he cannot recover from. This isn't a gun-ho ballsy Team America piece, in fact it's shows how disgusting, futile and ultimately evil war is - even by trying to become the hero you become the enemy. There is no such thing as a 'good guy' in war and, even as you battle your way through the game, by the end the city is in complete ruins. To justify war, you've had to destroy everything.

It's an introspective piece on Walker, a friend of Conrad's, who blames the General for all the evil that has occurred but as the game progresses you physically look worse and worse. Also, the little quips and in-game dialogue gets more heated and more desperate and it's a beautiful touch to the disintegration of Walker's mind. Even the menu appears different each time you turn it on, from the upside down flag, to a man keeping watch, to him dead with the city on fire, to an empty desolate space depending how far you have progressed in the campaign. Depending on what you do, you will get a certain ending of about five, none of which are 'good'. My one for instance ended with the city alight and completely destroyed - the result of me trying to do what was right.

All in all, The Line is about how far a man will go to prove his worth not only to other people, but more importantly to himself. We like to believe we are good people, but are we? Or do we just blame our bad decisions on other people? It's completely downbeat, it's horrific and no way do you ever feel like a hero. Instead you come away feeling slightly disgusted, slightly awkward and like you've just screwed everything up. It doesn't help that loading screens have strange messages like 'How many Americans have you killed today?' and 'You're still a good person.' I never got a chance to play the multiplayer mode but if you like a good action piece with a bit of gritty, harsh character assassination then it's definitely worth playing.

Rating: 7.5/10

Monday, 9 July 2012

NEWS: Behind The Scenes of The Dark Knight Rises

It's sooooo close!

Some new footage and other bits and pieces

NEWS: Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed Movie

Assassin's Creed movie is going forth with Fassbender staring as our young hero as well as co-producing it with his company DMC and Ubisoft Motion pictures.

Oooooh, how exciting. Finally a movie-based-on-game that might have some real clout behind it.

Ubisoft have been highly protective with the project and even Spielberg was attached at one point until Ubisoft pulled out to reain having creative control. Maybe that's because of the debacle that was Prince of Persia?

Of course, it could also just be hype to get Assassin's Creed III coming out, or is that the cynic in me?

Saturday, 9 June 2012

FEATURE: Everything You Need To Know About E3 2012

The biggest gaming event of the year just happened. Instead of going through all the various articles I've put everything you need to know in one page, so take a look. If you're searching for any new hardware from Sony or Microsoft - prepare to be disappointed.


Microsoft have released Smartglass. This is so that you can use your tablet or smartphone with your Xbox, such as using it as a remote, or watching a film then carrying onto your Xbox. It's not only part of Microsoft (finally) realising that a games console should be an entertainment hub for every living room (something Sony have been saying for years and years) but also puts it into direct competition with Wii U who have used their GamePad to do pretty much exactly the same thing. Clever Microsoft. It will also now feature Internet Explorer, some new Nike thing for your shoe (like Nike+ for your iPod) and that's about it.


Not much to be honest. A lot of plugging the Vita and saying it will be able to be synced with your PS3 so that, lo and behold, you can use it to interact with your Playstation as a remote or yadda yadda yadda. Also PS1 classics you have bought will also now be able to play on your Vita. No news about a new console.


More about the Wii U, you'll be able to play titles like Mass Effect 3, Arkham City, Assassin's Creed 3 and more on it and use them in a different way. But who cares? The GamePad which will be the Wii U control will have a screen, but you can also buy controls without a screen. There will also be a new Wii Fit thing. Ultimately they are trying to show off Wii U but nobody really cares.

So let's move onto the games, which was pretty much what E3 was about this year.


Ubisoft came in with a nice surprise called Watch Dogs. The idea is that you play someone who has access to everyone's personal details (not too far from what's happening with all this hacking etc. going on). Here's a cool gameplay trailer to get you in the mood:


David Cage has made quite a name for himself and yet his company, Quantic Dream, have released only a number of games I could count on one hand. His first real success was Fahrenheit in 2005 which was pretty dark but wanted to be less a game and more an 'interactive film'. They took this one step further with the superb Heavy Rain (reviewed here) in 2010 and now have shown us their next project starring Juno and Inception actress Ellen Page. Looks pretty good!




Seeing as I get criticised for leaving out Nintendo most of the time, here's Super Mario Bros 2 on 3DS where you have to collect a million gold coins or something. Looks fun ... I guess.


There's a huge fan base for the LEGO game series which I've dipped in and out of time to time. But they seem to have taken it one step further this time. Watch out for LEGOlas. Bam - went there.


EA still feel like they are missing a piece of the Call of Duty pie and I won't go into the whole Infinity Ward / Activision debacle but rest assured that Warfighter is going to be a step up from the last reboot of Medal Of Honor which had it's moments but overall, was all style and no substance. Anyway, here's a trailer of things blowing up and shooting people form all sorts of places.


What hasn't caused much hype is the new God of War. Perhaps people are bored? Either way, their teaser trailer didn't really reveal much but here's some of the lush gameplay that Kratos et al are known for. Also, it has multiplayer?


Of course, one of the big boys was Assassin's Creed 3 and instead of showing you all the trailers etc., here's some gameplay for you to look at. There's some messing about on foot, but the sea stuff looks incredible.


If you can't get enough of the third instalment then if you got a Vita you lucky thing, then look forward to Liberation. Here's a sneaky glimpse.

DUST 514

There seems to be a lot of hype about Eve, a whole PC thing that I'm completely unaware of. Anyway, if I got this right (and please correct me if I'm wrong), while the Eve users are busy doing political strategic intergalactic Universe warfare stuff, Dust 514 console users will be battling out in an an FPS on the ground according to what Eve players are doing. Very strange if that's right, but very cool. Here's a glimpse.


So more and more sequels. Crysis 2 was a bit of a let down it must be said, looked great but I really didn't enjoy it that much. In any case, I think it did quite well and people still bang on about the original so here's the third. Again, it looks brilliant, but then so did the second one ...


One of the titles I wish I could say I was looking forward to is Dead Space 3. However, as much as I enjoyed Dead Space 2 (which wasn't a lot, but still enjoyable), I can't help but think they have completely deviated away form what made Dead Space so fucking brilliant in the first place. It's co-op?! Why? The whole point is that your on the edge of your seat trying not to poo your pants, instead this is getting a bit like Gears of War or something. Nothing will beat the first one and you haven't lived if you haven't played it. Anyway, I'll probably still get this. Damn EA.


Quite simple. If you like Super Smash Bros (which I do, a lot) then you will probably love this. Drake, Kratos, Big Daddy, PaRappa The Rapper, Helghast person etc all going for it. Have a look.


By far and away the game I'm looking forward to the most. This gameplay trailer almost made me cry, it's so fucking brilliant. Take a look.


Since Spiderman 2, I haven't been bothered about any other Spiderman games really. However, this time round it does look rather juicy. Take a look for yourself.


Of course Microsoft's big one was Halo 4. Not having been made by the guys who did the original trilogy, this still looks like it will be more of the same that everyone loves with apparently some cool new multiplayer features. Here's a bit of gameplay but to be honest, if you've played Halo before, you'll know what it looks like.


This was a tech demo for Square's new engine called the Luminous Studio Engine, which will apparently be making some waves and bridge current tech to next-gen consoles. Anyway, it does look mighty impressive and Square have said that it could be the next Final Fantasy if people like it enough. Who knows? Have a look.


In the same vein, Unreal released a new tech demo for their new Unreal 4 engine. A LOT of games use the Unreal engine so it's a bit of a big deal if you'll be playing any FPS in the next few years.


Well, there is always the big Call of Duty release and this time is no exception. I enjoyed Black Ops so would be good to see if this can have a good story behind it like last time.


Capcom come back with Resident Evil 6 which looks more epic than ever. Hopefully, they have held off on the melodrama and tried to keep it a bit more grounded (as grounded as a zombie game can be), but with talk of the President etc. - it looks like this might be as cheesy as ever. Anyway, it will definitely be good fun.


Instead of a normal Star Wars game, this is supposed to be like Uncharted in space. There is no Force or anything like that, it's just a bit of action/adventure that keeps it all quite simple.


Definitely one of the top games to look out for, the Tomb Raider reboot looks and plays amazing. Will win a lot of awards next year I'm telling you! Look at this incredible trailer, if only films were more like this.


I really enjoyed the last Splinter Cell, something I haven't been able to say for some time. Blacklist carries on in the same vein and has definitely upped the game. Below is a gameplay trailer UbiSoft have released and I think it looks rather spiffing.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

REVIEW: Chronicle

Kids with powers. But still kids.

The idea of a bunch of teens getting superhero powers and pissing about sounds like good fun. However, Chronicle concentrates on how all it takes is one unhinged mind and you've got a villain on your hands.

The story follows a classic 'found footage' formula (something which becomes very annoying) as three kids stumble onto an unknown meteorite of some sort and soon find themselves able to move things, fly and more.

Quite a cool, original concept written by John Landis's son Max and directed by a young Josh Trank. It's definitely ambitious and exciting in that you can relate to how 'normal' (in an American High School way) these kids are compared to the Marvel type superheroes we come across in the cinema these days. However, it's still an extremely flawed film.

Namely, the use of videocameras and such is absurd and the subplots are useless. The main character of the film, Andrew, is a pathetic, bullied, creepy, annoying person who I would like to slap. So when his father starts doing it, I'm inclined to think he deserved it (not that I condone hitting kids but, Andrew is really really annoying, and anyway the kid is dangerous, and not exactly a kid). So when Andrew starts using his powers to hurt and destroy it's soon up to his mates to sort him out. It's about friendship, but it's not really.

The bullied kid trying to get through high school with an abusive father is boring and cheesy, Dane DeHaan does well as a tortured young soul but ultimately he's a dick. The playing with the powers is fun, in a Jackass kind of way, but when the battle starts to heat up at the end it feels like it's over before it's begun. It would have made a cool short but I felt like there was so much filler in there that I'd be hard pushed to want to watch it again.

Nice idea and Trank, for 27 years old, is someone to keep an eye on. In fact, it's been reported he's going to do the movie of Shadow of the Colossus which is, for me, a huge deal. So watch Chronicle if you have nothing to do but don't get too excited, end of the day it's as if Superman went to Columbine.

Review: 5/10 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

REVIEW: Max Payne 3

From the snowy streets of New York, Max gets a bit of sun in Brazil but some things never change.

If you've played Max Payne before you will know that it has always been criticised of style over substance. There's a lot of bullet time shooting, which is it's main appeal, however it's dark film noir-ish story was also what kept it captivating at times. The first game concentrated on him losing his family, the second one about his relationship with another woman and moving on and this third one about what he is exactly moving on to.

The previous games were told as an internal monologue over a comic script, however, 9 years on since Max Payne 2, Rockstar have really blown the doors wide open to make Max Payne 3 a sun soaked shoot fest that never lets up.

Graphically, Payne 3 is phenomenal and the favelas of Sao Paulo are something quite remarkable. The gameplay works, but the bullet time isn't a necessity like it was in the previous games. Also changing guns is often awkward and cumbersome and if you run out of ammo? You might as well use your last bullet to shoot yourself in the head for the same good it will do you. The levels are nice and long and it does take a good 9-10 hours to complete, with a lot of ridiculous action set pieces in between, but still I feel there's a lot that lets it down.

Firstly, I found it often quite repetitive, the one thing that could really break it up from other shooters is the bullet time, but where you would often jump round corners, if you hit anything or hit the floor too soon, it will snap back out, so I often found that it's just easier to run around, find cover and shoot the old fashioned way, thereby making bullet time somewhat pointless. I would sometimes use it to go over cover and do some headshots but that's about it.

There are also a LOT of cutscenes, which I don't usually mind, but I think it could have done with a bit less and a bit more just enjoying the action. The story is quite lame really, we're used to the anti-hero disgruntled cop thing which Payne epitomises but it doesn't feel as authentic as it does before. We're also getting tired of his self-loathing and cheesy statements and the idea of going in gun-ho is nothing new, we're watching a mid-life crisis and it just lacks that edge that there was before.

The plot is about Payne having to run from New Jersey to Brazil and take up a personal security job looking after some rich family we don't care about. They are getting caught up in all the local and global politics and everything goes south real quick. That's about all I could make it, there's some twists and turns but to be honest you're just waiting for the next chance to shoot something.

Overall, this game is a smooth addition to the Payne serious and makes a nice transition from the despair of New York to the heat of Brazil. However, it's hard to feel sorry for a guy who is surrounded by beautiful women in the sun the whole time. There's a reason why Noir works so well in dystopian cities and Payne 3 proves it. An average story, some good graphics and decent but repetitive gameplay makes for a slightly above average experience. It's definitely not unmissable.

Rating: 7/10 

REVIEW: Prometheus

Ridley Scott returns to his Sci-Fi roots in one of the most highly anticipated films this year, but is it all it's cracked up to be?

The initial problem that Scott faces is that he's shot himself in the foot by creating a film in his Alien universe, which got fanboys and the general moviegoing audience very, very excited. There's always high hopes for a Ridley Scott film (often dashed) but this time it really did set a precedent.

So let's begin by saying do not expect this to be an Alien film because it isn't. At all. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, when the film finished I was a bit surprised by the route it had gone down. Rarely was I at the edge of my seat or biting my fingernails, instead I was watching wide eyed and trying to absorb everything - where Alien was simple, Prometheus is hugely and unnecessarily complicated.

This is mainly due to the fact that Damon Lindelof, of Lost fame, is the scribe and a lot of people have been fuming about how he is all ideas and no actual content or context, which I have to agree with. Just because something looks interesting with all different bits, it doesn't mean that when you start putting it together (as people always do) that the result is something you actually like. Prometheus is full of good things, just not necessarily things that work well together.

In case you don't know, the idea is that the film takes place before Alien etc. (I imagine it doesn't even want to include AvP prequel stories!) where a couple of doctors discover a map to a planet where they believe they will meet their makers. As they land on the planet, things start to turn a bit sour. The overarching theme is the idea of the big questions in life, who we are and where we come from, but also a chicken and egg theology that tries it's best to keep some faux-intelligentsia that Lindelof likes to think he's a pro at. Much like Lost, he thinks he understands the audience but he doesn't, he takes advantage of trust and it's something that he will come up against time and again. What I love about the film, I also hate and though Lindelof is full of big ideas, I can't help but feel that he doesn't have the methodology to pull them off.

In any case, the set design and general production is impressive and the 3D iMax that I watched it in was incredible and for that alone, it was definitely worth the watch. However, what was also hugely impressive was the cast. Fassbender proves he is an acting heavyweight by pulling the film together and I would say is the central character to the piece rather than Rapace, who has to put on an English accent (why not just use someone English?). Charlize Theron does her bit but is somewhat useless, as is Idris Elba as the cool pilot and to be honest, everyone else who just become a bit of fodder. Essentially, the acting is great but the characters are not fleshed out at all which is a huge downfall.

Also, looking back, the story kind of makes sense, but not really. There is a lot of plotholes which I'm sure will be widely discussed for a while but it's made up of great set pieces. This isn't really a monster movie, in fact it's not a horror at all, or even a chiller, it's a Sci-Fi film that would rather have a huge orchestral action score than a small, lingering, 'less-is-more' approach that defined Alien. If you're willing to take that onboard, sit through some pretty incredible 3D or if you want to see something that you know you'll enjoy then go to your cinema and see it. But it's not genre-defining, it's not scary, it's not original, it's not Alien, but I liked it nonetheless.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 8 April 2012

REVIEW: The Darkness 2

Jackie is back and his battle with the darkness is renewed as he faces a new enemy ...

The Darkness was one of the first titles I played on PS3 and enjoyed it thoroughly. Mainly the idea of going around ripping people apart with evil tentacle-like arms and exacting your revenge was a tempting experience. So with arms open, it was time to embrace The Darkness again but this time, a lot more shooting at the same time as ripping people apart.

As far as the narrative is concerned, Jackie has pushed The Darkness deep inside him and become the head of the mafia. However, a group called The Brotherhood are out to suck The Darkness from Jackie and use it themselves. The Darkness wants to keep within Jackie and admits it is holding his old lover's soul inside it, therefore using it as blackmail to control him. Jackie uses The Darkness and goes on a killing rampage. The story, and visuals, are straight out of a comic book and works on a completely ridiculous yet enjoyable level.

What I enjoy most is the classic redemption, Jackie as a character works because he's the classic anti-hero. His little soliloquies during loading screens give an insight into his persona that's better than a usual 'Loading....' screen. The other characters are quite boring and classic archetypes. However, his relationships with these characters are mirrored in the asylum scenes that add an intriguing dimension to the game.

Narratively, it holds up, even when getting ridiculous it's self-aware and doesn't apologise for being a classic, fun shooter. The gameplay is smooth and varied enough to keep your interest throughout and it gets increasingly tougher the more you move on. The tactical part of shooting out lights and having to take out enemies at the same time and in different order means that you are constantly on edge and never comfortable, which makes for a more exciting experience.

Overall, the game is a bit of fun that is a lot better than a lot of fodder out there, and although isn't anything particularly new or different, it knows what players wants and plays up to it. It doesn't try to do something it knows it can't and keeps it simple, which is definitely best for a game like this. The story might be cheesy and a bit stupid, but is definitely worth spending some time on.

 Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: The Hunger Games

One of cinema's most profitable successes already, this futuristic reality TV show fight-to-the-death proves kids can watch mature content, and enjoy it.

So if you were thinking this is like The Running Man crossed with Battle Royale with a pinch of Big Brother, you'd be completely correct. Though in my mind, that's a good thing. I love films like this, a simple idea that's not too far from our own love of reality TV and boiled down to the base need of survival.

The Hunger Games is set in a future that has clearly come out of a 'rebellion' and to prove that the rebels are still submissive, they have to give up a 'tribute' which is a child between 12 and 18 as part of TV show The Hunger Games. A show where there can be only one winner, and you must kill everyone else. Along the way, you are supposed to impress 'sponsors' who pay to give you stuff while you're in there and generally speaking, the producers will do what they can to make it interesting. We follow Katniss, who is a bit of a tomboy and a good hunter, her male counterpart is Peeta who is a bit pathetic and fancies Katniss. With a little help from Woody Harrelson as their mentor, they enter the games and try to survive.

The cast and general acting in the film (apart from some other contestants) was impressive and Jennifer Lawrence really does hold the film together with her wide-eyed innocence yet tough demeanour and martyrdom sensibility. I loved the art direction, the capital they travel to is a wondrous spectacle that is full of imagination, the fashion and money that clearly floats about screams sheer consumerism much like the capital of any country. The contest itself is sometimes nail-biting and you have really built up a connection with Katniss to care about her - something pivotal to the film and it's success. It's mature themes are also commendable - I've always stated that kids films need to be darker, that this is what we remember as adults and that children are smarter than we think they are. They cannot be spoon fed issues and information, they enjoy learning it for themselves and like any well-rounded adult mind, they don't want everything to be smelling of roses - it's unhealthy. They want danger, fear, and a safe embrace of the dark and though this film isn't exactly that, it's a step in the right direction.

There are a few points which do let it down. Namely, there is a lot of time spent before the games begin. I'm all for context and building up tension but I felt that a whole film had gone by and we've not even started the most interesting bit. There are some quite cheesy scenes about hope, sacrifice, love etc. that, for a kids film, is acceptable, but also makes it slightly tedious.

Some parts also don't make sense, such as when she is waiting up a tree and they refuse to try and get her until she comes down, when the dogs just appear - is this virtual reality? Clearly not. So what happened there? Why are they aiming fire at her? Surely it's better if she stays alive to fight? Also there's not much post-games and I thought this would be quite important. I understand that it's the first book of a series but, it could have had a better ending. Her male counterpart Peeta was also so whiny and pathetic that the whole time I wanted him to hurry up and die. The sponsors bit also was a bit lost on me, and it didn't make much of an impression. However, my main grievance is that this should have been at least a 15. The lack of gore, violence and blood makes it feel strange and fake. If someone was gutted by a sword, there would be blood, but there's hardly anything on screen. Not great for a fight to the death, so the whole time I felt on edge with this blood lust that was never satisfied. It doesn't feel right and is like when kids dress up as fantasy characters and pretend to fight in the woods - it therefore lacks that bite that it so needed and becomes a bunch of kids faffing about. A bit of a shame.

Overall, it was enjoyable and fun and great for kids, but I'd prefer to watch Battle Royale.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Alan Wake - American Nightmare

Alan’s back … but can he a-Wake from this American Nightmare?

Readers of this blog will understand I have a lot of time for Alan Wake, a flawed yet engrossing game with an existential crisis of a storyline that will make your brain bleed in its over the top complexity. American Nightmare tries it’s best to sum up what has happened, so that it may be possible for gamers who haven’t played previous Wake titles to drop in. However, it just becomes a stark reminder of how convoluted the whole story was anyway. The matter of fact is that I like waving my torch around and shooting things in the dark. Well, there’s a whole lot of that in this stand-alone title.

Microsoft Studios have tried to up the ante a bit by making this title more action based and less ‘survival’ than its predecessors. Wake has a whole host of weaponry and ammo and batteries are plentiful, making you a lot less aware of saving supplies and concentrating more on the killing. Where it would have been an option to flee at some point in Alan Wake, this American Nightmare chapter makes it obvious they want you to go in guns blazing – and I’m happy to oblige.

Alongside this there are new monsters, characters and a bit more about Mr. Scratch meaning the story has clearly progressed since Wake disappeared. What seems to have happened is he is caught in a time loop which is a good and a bad thing. It's good because I like Groundhog Day, but it does mean you sometimes watch cut sequences three to four times, that you get used to the locations and find yourself doing the same thing repeatedly. The storywriters try to manage it so it speeds up each time, but essentially when you find yourself repeating what you’ve already done twice, on purpose, it becomes annoying. Another factor is I didn’t get close to dying once, I whizzed through the entire game in about 4 hours (which is quite healthy for a downloadable game), but overall I enjoyed this a lot.

The action has picked up a bit, and whether this will translate into Alan Wake 2 remains to be seen, but it’s a nice stepping stone to get there and even though the story is as ridiculous as ever, it’s still an enjoyable experience. The repetition really did let it down, whether it mattered to the story or not, perhaps some liked this? But for me, it was slightly lazy.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 1 March 2012

NEWS: Assassin's Creed 3 Revealed

Here you have it. Leaked onto the internet, this image is making me very excited! People had thought it was Victorian London, maybe even the future, but it seems that the American Revolution might be the setting as a Navajo-esque assassin stands in front of the American flag. Could it be something akin to Red Dead Redemption?  Some are moaning that the French Revolution would have been more apt for Creed's style, but  they will definitely cause quite a stir with this.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

NEWS: The Dictator Speaks Back (Sacha Baron Cohen)

REVIEW: War Horse

Welcome ... to the worst film of 2011. Perhaps ever.

Who actually likes this film? Who out there is saying that this is good? That it deserves an oscar? Who are these people?

War Horse is about a horse, that goes to war. The horse is the main character. A horse. One that is basically void of apparent emotion or depth. It's not a talking horse, it's just a horse, a passive pawn in war. Okay, okay, so it's a symbol for a young man's innocence, his passion etc. but really, I mean, c'mon, it's a horse.

Sick of the word horse? Well try 3 hours of it. What starts in a horribly cliche'd Lord Of The Rings Shire-esque vision of Forties England suddenly means that we are without our main human contact, instead we are left to follow the horse. Horses not known to be evocative. We see everyone keep going on about what a bloody great horse he is, characters come and go as the narrative moves on and suddenly there's a painstakingly long scene with Toby Kebbell (what are you doing man?) and a German soldier untying the horse. It so sweet and sickly, I could pour it on my pancakes. I even fell asleep for ten minutes but I couldn't have missed much. Everyone was overacting, the war scenes were boring and overall the whole thing was almost a joke. Films shouldn't be boiled down to something as simple as this, I'd like to think the moviegoing public are much more clever nowadays to fool for such melodramatic nonsense.

I cannot tell you how bad this film is, and if it wins anything at the Oscars it will be a traversty. Spielberg should be ashamed.

Rating: 1/10

REVIEW: Ides Of March

Clooney ... again .... With Gosling!!!

Ryan Gosling plays a young, idealistic campaigner for who he believes will be the next President and will actually make a difference to the world, Mr. George Clooney.

I had reservations about a Clooney political thriller, the man can be a little heavy handed and at points during this film, Clooney makes his own political stances quite clear as Govenor. However, it is quite a subtle introduction for modern mainstream audiences to embrace political thrillers that they might have thought would be too out of their depth, think All The President's Men and how it might be a bit old hat now for young cinemagoers. Though this doesn't have the appeal as that classic, it was surprisingly more entertaining than I thought it would be. The main reason for this is Gosling's ability to keep you interested in everything he is doing. His charisma knows no bounds. As he plays a young, rather naive, arrogant prodigy there is also a sense that as a person he is slightly corrupt, that his rather egotistical outlook on life is his own downfall and then, his own succession. He must, in fact, completely embrace that horrible, soiled side of him for him to succeed in what is dirty politics. It in fact shows that in a world of greys, in politics you either go all the way or you remain righteous and take the chance that you get left behind. Perhaps it is more black and white than it seems?

Gosling's character clearly looks up to Clooney and when his hero falls from grace in his eyes, in quite a dramatic turn of events, Gosling takes it upon himself to survive. However, it is in fact this sense of survival and character flaw of his that actually ends in a death. If he had been less selfish in the first place, things might have gone a little bit better.

Clooney's directing is somewhat lacking in anything substantial, it's average at best and has no excitement behind it. Just a man going through the paces. The performances are very good, but that's because of the heavyweights involved and Gosling's appeal rather than deserving directing. The plot is good, but not great, it's rather lacking in some areas and doesn't engross me like many political thrillers do, however it's definitely enjoyable and makes some good points.

Overall, Gosling's journey through the mudslinging and coming out at the end shows that no matter what ideals you have, in the world of politics, anything goes. Definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: The Descendants

Will Academy Golden Boy Clooney Do It Again?

A lot of people have asked me what I thought of this film and if you can't be bothered to read the below then I can sum it up in one word - "Alright".

For more greater detail on why, let's just say it's another Clooney vehicle. People might say how the focus should be on Payne and they are correct. However, I'm just not a huge fan of his. People writing reviews in magazines (the ones that get paid to write and get loads of time to do it and rarely know what they are talking about etc. - not bitter of course) have been writing love letters to Payne saying how they missed his work and it's been ages since his last film. You know why it's been ages? Because he's been spending that time working on Hung - a TV series I've neither seen or had the inclination to see.

Anyway, off the point, Sideways was a good movie - but I felt it was Giamatti who really made it. Payne's shtick of a 'journey' both literally and metaphorically is so cliched that it's tough to enjoy one film about it. Let alone three. I thought his true masterpiece was the largely undervalued Election and would gladly watch that again than watch this. However, time and time again he does seem to like the mid-life crisis of American males. It's just nothing new and Descendants is proof of this.

George Clooney plays a man whose wife is in critical condition. At the same time his large extended family have a huge deal in place with him at the centre of selling off some family plot. The painstakingly obvious idea of family is never buried within the story, it's clear as day - the land is a metaphor for his family. He won't 'give it up'. It's almost embarrassing to watch. As he delves a little deeper, he finds out his wife was cheating on him so makes it a task to find the people close to her, including the other man in her life. In a way, she has brought the family closer together than she perhaps ever could have done in life. It's a sad tale but one that is full of melancholy, a Payne favourite.

A lot of people describe this as a comedy, it's not. It's full of some weird funny awkward moments and Clooney's warmth shines through as he clearly understands the character, but Oscar worthy? Seriously? It's a completely forgettable film with some okay performances. The little girl is annoying, the teenager's boyfriend even more annoying (a male teenager from the Nineties it seems indicating Payne is quite out of touch) and the peripheral characters not really even worth mentioning. There are some touching, tender moments but with the amount of quality that was produced in the latter half of last year, this should be buried somewhat, not leading the pack.

The bit I really enjoyed the most was the end. A quiet, thoughtful, unassuming look at the family who are now sitting down and facing us, a role reversal to presume that it is now our turn to live our lives, tell our stories and get on with everything. It's simplicity is a touch of genius but something that can't save the entire film.

It's George Clooney being George Clooney (has he had work done?) in another slow, character led piece.

Good, but by no means great, or even fantastic.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Take Shelter

A storm is coming ...

This film came and went in the UK without much notice - which is a horrible shame as it is one of the best films I had seen last year.

The plot is that Michael Shannon is a manual worker with a loving family, including a deaf daughter, that starts to see things in the sky. Whether it's clouds, hurricanes, or a strange flock of birds - Shannon feels that something is coming and wants to do something about it. So to protect his family, he focuses all his attention and money into a shelter in the yard. However, he is also wondering whether he is going crazy and with a family history of mental illness, is this a true premonition or the visions of a madman?

Firstly, what really stands out are the superb performances by the cast. Shannon is a logical, loving and sympathetic character which makes his turmoil ever the more real. His self-analysis mirrors the audience's own judgement of his character, he therefore becomes the subject and the viewer at the same time. For the majority of the film, he is looking onwards at the visions - he is with us, wondering, exasperating and confused. However, as the film progresses, and the shelter takes more shape his visions become more active and violent. His dreams spill over with paranoia and helplessness whether it's the family dog, the community or his own wife and in a way, each one inevitably leaves him isolated. Shannon's gritty demeanour and strong, silent, passive type is perfectly suited. It also makes more of an impact when he blows up. His relationship with his mother is telling, the family unit he comes from having been broken up and his need to keep it all together perhaps weighing too heavily on his mind.

Jessica Chastain proves again that she is a bright star for the future and needs more heavyweight roles like this. Her patience, adoration and understanding of Shannon, even in the most unforgivable situations makes the relationship realistic and heartfelt. She doesn't over-exaggerate and quietly let's Shannon evolve as a character without disrupting the focus of the film.

My only quibble was with casting is Shea Whigham as Shannon's friend. The two are main characters from Boardwalk Empire and so closely associated with the show that you can't help but watch it and remember the show. It was annoying and, nothing against Whigham's acting, it just let the film down.

Overall, the film is another critique on post-9/11 paranoia in a new age. The fact that Mother Earth herself is waging war against us through all sorts of weather temperaments is proof that this isn't just post-Katrina blues, but a sheer fear against nature and more importantly, human nature. The fear of oneself and those around you. The shelter itself is a haven for Shannon's family not against the outside world, but against himself. He must protect his family from himself and his fear of what could happen, with this schizophrenia he has diagnosed himself with is almost as dangerous as the condition itself.

It's not just sheer chance that birds seem to be the harbingers of doom. Not only are they seemingly black crows of sorts (a classic sign of death and doom - Edgar Allen Poe for instance), but they are a community, flying in the same direction, pulled this way and that ever-changing, much like the American public mindset, the community spirit almost, following by instinct it's natural path. The fact that they fly could even be linked to 9/11 - an attack from the sky against the American people. They float like a deathly ghost, a smoke and yet it's so beautiful at the same time, this melancholia, this beauty in death and destruction paints the film's emotions with shades of grey that add a real depth to it's heart.

Shannon inevitably has to take his family down to the shelter and once trapped inside his mental anguish, it takes the love of his wife for him to open the door, to take the chance, to let go of that fear and embrace the world outside. Embrace his friends and family. However, the last scene is proof that it might be okay for a while now, but it won't be for long. That fear, that paranoia, will be with them forever and will only grow stronger. It's a lasting image that no matter where you go, how happy you are, there will always be the fear of something horrible on the horizon. This could be a statement on the general American public who love to be afraid, it could be a statement on mental health (notice how his daughter spots it first) and it's ability to be passed down, it could be a statement on the character's relationship (his wife's final understanding and acceptance), it could be a statement on environmental issues, or it could be an apocalypse. Either way it makes for a tense and entertaining movie.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 29 January 2012

NEWS: Xbox Loop/720/NextBox Updates

Well there's a bit more information flying around the new Xbox system. Mainly that the AMD Radeon technology will be powering the graphics with a similar chipset to the 6670. Therefore it will have six times the raw processing power of the current Xbox 360 and will also make it faster than Wii U. Development kit should be with gaming companies as early as August.

The new Xbox console will also bite the bullet and play Blu-Rays, something it should be doing now anyway but doesn't want to admit total defeat by using a Sony product after the HD war between the consoles.

The big news is that this week it has been leaked that the new console will not allow you to play used games. There was talk an authentication code would be needed, or online verification. The seeds of this have been planted in games already but this really would be a shocking turn for gamers and something I think Sony should get behind the gamers on. It could give them the edge.

Also we're finally getting rid of the ridiculous Microsoft points system and going back to cold hard cash. I still to this day don't know how many points it is to the pound. It's a stupid currency that cheats gamers into thinking it's not real money that they are spending. Tut tut.

So there you have it, anything else people have heard that I haven't mentioned?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

NEWS: The Office Spin-Off Series

Seeing as the US Office has been getting progressively worse since Carrell left, it's good to see that they are willing to cut the old fat and try something new.

The series is going to be about Dwight and him going off to run his B&B on his farm. A lot of the cast's contracts end after this eighth season and it's been a pretty shit one to be honest.

The idea at the moment is that it will probably have one last ninth season, where halfway through Dwight will leave for the spin off. Nothing has been officially announced, but I think everyone knows that The Office is coming to a close, it's just not got any life left unfortunately.

REVIEW: Melancholia

One of my favourite directors Lars Von Trier makes one of the most interesting and beautiful films of 2011 in what only can be described as a pre-apocalyptic masterpiece.

I won't babble on about how much I swoon over Von Trier films but his work has never been for everyone. It's often slow yet energetic, meticulous yet rough, controversial yet realistic and the main element being that he is never afraid, a character trait that means his intellectual and artistic methods shine through his work and Melancholia is proof of this.

The film on the surface is about a depressive young lady getting married and the subsequent arrival of a hidden planet on a one way course to collide with Earth. Dunst is quite stunning as the crying bride and Gainsbourg plays the loving sister perfectly with every actor in it, even Sutherland, giving their best performance that we've seen for a while.

The opening sequences, and a lot of the movie are treated like living paintings. The scenes at the beginning are apparently famous works of art and they have to be the most beautiful shots I've ever seen in cinema, something incredible from a Dogma Dane. The slowly deteriorating mental health of Dunst is a sad yet beautiful thing to watch, literally melancholia, she has a horrible mother, a strange father and a husband whom she won't allow herself to love.

However, as the planet moves towards them, Dunst makes it clear that in her mania there is clarity, that by being mentally unhealthy you are almsot invulnerable to anything because of your vulnerability. If you're at your lowest, then there's nowhere else to go, even if it is the end of the world. In the mounting chaos surrounding them, Dunst grows calmer and more logical whereas Gainsbourg gets panic attacks and doesn't know how to deal with the situation. The two of them switch places and Dunst has accepted her fate. Melancholia isn't anything you can run from - it will find you.

Everything here is perfect, the story and the characters as well as the subliminal messages about the economy, sexuality, fate, space, time and God all in one film about a wedding. Don't get me wrong though, this won't appeal to everyone and it is quite slow, sometimes a tough watch and often you just want things to move forward - however it is cinema as art and will stay in your mind for days to come. I can't believe how great Dunst looks either and, if you're bothered, you see her naked. Maybe just go see it for that.

Rating: 9/10