Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Shield: The Final Act

The last season of The Shield was never going to be a big happy affair, but never has the rise and fall of a character been so shocking.

Vic Mackey's struggle to keep everything together is coming loose, and fast. With the Armenians still on their case and the Mexicans stirring things up in Farmington, it's less about the Strike Team surviving and more about just surviving at all.

It's clear that even though Vic looks and acts like a thug, his scheming and planning is the sort that Caesar might be jealous of. His manipulation of others and complete control of every situation makes you root for him as you always have done, almost completely taking belief of the idea that sometimes the end justifies the means. But throughout this series, the real Vic Mackey is slowly unravelled to reveal a horrible monster, that all his camaraderie, all his 'rightful' arrests and all the positive things he's done are actually just lies and deceit, that in the end he is purely out for himself. It's a horrible portrait of an anti-hero turning completely into an enemy.

The whole season is also based on Shane Vs. Vic as they try to outsmart each other every step of the way, Shane even admits that though they are both as bad apart, together they are sheer evil and never has this been more clear as here. They stoop to all kinds of lows in order to keep their heads above the water and end up in some dire situations.

What also makes this series great is that it's not too distracted with other parallel storylines. There's Dutch's obsession with the psyche of a serial killer, Claudette's physical breakdown while she tries to maintain her integrity and the dirty laundry of politics on show, but it all comes together in one final blow. Vic is even losing his family, the one thing he puts above everything else and his sudden wish to take care of his illegitimate child is some kind of redemption in how he has failed them, that in some way his desperation to keep his family was not for love, but to cling onto some kind of good in himself that is slipping away. His wish to take down a drug cartel and his new job to him seems like some kind of spiritual cleansing, at one point he even admits this on the phone and this brutal honesty is a shocking sign that things really are breaking down for him to be so revealing, it's practically a cry for help. But once he sits down to confess all, once you the viewer who are already more than aware of what he has done for the past 7 years come face to face with the harsh reality of Vic's actions, it's almost staring at yourself and reflecting on the fact that you actually rooted for this guy; that in some way, you're partly to blame. I doubt whether this was the writer's motive, but nonetheless it was how I personally felt. That what had seemed like a bit of fun makes you realise it was a guilty pleasure that you enjoyed as much as he did.

Also in some strange way, as Vic is almost at the end of his downward spiral, you start rooting for Shane, the true hero of The Shield. You feel sorry for him that he just didn't seem to have the brains to figure out how deep he was getting himself into and in the end, all he wanted was to be with his family. But the real tragedy is Ronnie - loyal til the end, never once tripping up and yet got tangled up with the wrong crowd.

The main reason why I think this is my favourite series is not only because of the great acting and directing (by Clark Johnson who you've probably seen in The Wire anyway), but because it shows that The Shield was truly a great piece of fiction and never failed to get it's hands dirty. The end is dark, sinister and depressing - what you want from a good series, and they don't hold back either. The final silent scene allows the audience to join Vic in thinking back on everything that's happened and how, in the end, it meant nothing. Everything, in a word, got completely fucked. He realises that he has screwed over pretty much everybody and is now left completely alone. It could have been done a million different ways, but I feel this was the most appropriate and well deserved.

The problem is, it will never get the status of The Wire or other top TV shows for the simple fact that it looks, and feels, almost farcical. But if you're willing to invest time, I would seriously suggest putting any pre-judgements aside and revelling in what has to be one of the best cop dramas I've seen on TV. I enjoyed The Wire's last season, but I'm sorry to say that, for me, it doesn't compare to this.

I fucking loved every second of it and sad to see it end.


Rating: 10/10


Saturday, 17 April 2010

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

What is considered to be a classic, we put this 1962 movie under the light to see if it still stands up today. But I never expected it to be like this ...

In case you're not aware of it already, here's the background to this film. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were huge in their day (Crawford was arguably one of the most gorgeous women ever) but by the Sixties, things had changed. The pair were in their mid-Fifties and their careers had bombed but Robert Aldrich was able to talk them into taking the roles, which was tough considering that both actresses famously hated each other. You thought celebrity spats these days were bad, these girls were the Queens of bitchiness and made it clear too all and sundry that they couldn't think less of the other. How these two could share a movie together people had thought would be near impossible, well, it almost was ...

The arguing was constant on-set and even got to the point where Davis apparently kicked Crawford in the head so hard she needed stitches (though this is unreliable as Crawford is out of shot during this scene), and as her body was dragged, Crawford had put weights under her jumper making Davis strain her back muscles to the point where she couldn't move properly afterwards. But this tension looked incredible on the screen and earned Davis an Oscar nomination, which infuriated Crawford to the point where she called all the other nominees in the category who couldn't be there if she could pick it up on their behalf and, when Anne Bancroft won, Crawford delightfully walked up stating 'Step aside' to Davis as she collected the award on Bancroft's behalf. There was nothing these two wouldn't do. Though it gave their careers a bit of a kick-start, it didn't last for long, but this movie still makes top film lists and Baby Jane herself occasionally pops up as one of the greatest movie villains.

So what's it all about? Davis plays Baby Jane who used to be a child star, but then her dowdy sister Blanche suddenly became a Hollywood sensation leaving Baby Jane to then live in her sister's shadow. After an accident where Jane was accused of hitting Blanche with a car, Blanche is left crippled and Jane is left to look after her. So the story really starts where the old sisters are living in a nice big house in the suburbs with nosy neighbours and Jane is completely full of bitterness, especially because the TV is currently playing all Blanche's old films. As the movie progresses, Jane becomes increasingly more psychotic and ends up abusing, torturing and more to her poor wheelchair-bound sister. That's basically it. It's based on the Henry Farrell novel and is considered to be one of the greatest psycho-thrillers ever, almost Hitchcockian in it's standards and to be honest they're right in thinking that.

Davis' Oscar nomination was well deserved. Her make-up is caked on, she looks awful on purpose and her dissent into madness is terrifying as it is interesting. Though Crawford may have been jealous of Davis' nomination, it's because the character is just incredible, and Crawford might look amazing (strangely even more so near the end when she's dying and the fact she was like 58 - which was worrying both to me and my girlfriend) but she doesn't chew up the scene as much as Davis does. Her character arc is incredible, it's not as much an arc as a full circle, she ends up how she started. It's actually halfway through the film where she is at her meanest, after this point she starts to regress and by the end of the film she is a child again performing in front of an audience (though in different circumstances) and falls back in love with her sister, it's incredible to watch.

There is also a huge Oedipal complex, her love for her late father is creepy to say the least and her interest in the strange Edwin, a much younger man, borders on the sick. His close ties with his mother (or Delia as he calls her) reflects his interest in Jane, though he would probably suggest to himself it's for financial reasons, it is clearly sexual as he is as estranged, disturbed and lonely as Jane is. But my God, is she disturbing. People might watch through their hands at films like Saw, but this is true horror in that, it's completely believable. Jane is obsessed with her child-like image including her dresses, her creepy dolls and more, which is bad enough, let alone watching her sing songs about her Daddy, this absolutely chilled me to the bone and filled me with horror more than any other 'horror' film could. It was disturbing as hell to watch and yet still pathetic and sad. It's also clear that as mentally sick as Jane is, you can see how she has become so bitter and twisted. Living under her sister's shadow you realise that she is full of guilt for hurting her sister and resents her for it, she also resents Blanche for her martyrdom to the cause, the pretty 'damsel in distress', and I'd imagine it would become impossible to live with yourself, especially since she is clearly a self-destructive alcoholic. Blanche's insistent buzzing in itself is enough to drive the viewer crazy, let alone Jane, and my guess is she's sick of herself and the only way to deal with it, is to become what she once was, to reclaim her innocence when everything was wonderful.

The increasing tension between the two sisters also becomes unbearable, when lifting a lid to see what you have been given for dinner is a harrowing experience, you know you're in for a ride. Davis might be the more interesting character but that's taking nothing away from Crawford, her plight in her wheelchair is representative to the frustration she is consumed with, which you realise at the end, and her quiet nature is incredibly passive and heartbreaking at the same time. She is bullied beyond belief and you completely sympathise with her and it's her solo scenes where she really shines through which, when approaching the staircase, never before has something seemed so impossible. The staircase is a constant threat, it's the pathway to Jane's diseased lair and to the exit, an increasingly impossible task to reach.

How the director could deal with two such divas is impressive, but the actual camerawork is incredible, a low swinging bulb almost acts as a makeshift stage light as Jane loses her grip on reality. The pace is perfect and Aldrich has done an absolutely incredible job in not only squeezing out some incredible performances, but also in his ability to pull everything together under unusual circumstances and make such amazing results, the five Oscar nominations prove others thought so too. Films like Misery have tried to pull off the trapped victim story but never has it been so good. It goes to show how far a good story and some simple plot devices work. They might both be crippled in their own way, but Baby Jane has to be one of the most disturbing characters on-screen. You want to know what happened to Baby Jane? Go out and watch it.

Rating: 10/10

Splinter Cell Conviction

Sam's back. But this time, it's personal. Again. With this latest Splinter Cell chapter, Sam is brought back into the game and once again, some deep, dark secrets are revealed...

I always enjoyed playing Splinter Cell, but after Pandora Tomorrow, I lost interest. No matter how much they hyped it up, I felt like it was sometimes just too bloody slow. If you stepped out for a second from the shadows, it was almost game over and those bloody goggles meant you hardly saw any light at all. It just became the same old thing again and again. You sneak from A to B and that's it. People say it's a lesser Metal Gear Solid, but they are completely different games and the fact is, Splinter Cell won't be able to keep up to the ingenuity of the MGS series. So no matter how much I heard that this game was more action based, I couldn't help but think they are still playing catch up.

Bad news first. The story somewhat relies on the fact you know what's happened in the previous games, which to be honest I don't. But then I don't care either. Some stuff about his daughter and his old boss and whatever but throughout the whole game, I didn't have a clue what was really going on. All I knew, as usual, was I had to sneak from A to B. This is a shame because it could have some real story chops if it just stopped trying so hard but, like everything by Clancy, double crosses, politics, evil warmongers and all that (yawwwwn) are heavy, seriously guys Clancy isn't that good. If anyone has read one of his books you'll know how shit he is, and if you like Clancy you might want to ask yourself, did you like The Da Vinci Code? Well, there you go then.

Other bad stuff is the useless weapons upgrading cache thing, I'm guessing it's for people who like to re-play these games, but all I needed was my silencer and a machine gun in case things got heavy. I honestly couldn't give a shit about the other stuff. Also, things like the Sticky Camera might have been cool in other Splinter Cell's, but it's just adding more choice to your armoury. I always think it's good to have choices, but I like to think they should make what you have worth having. Also, by the time you get your new sonar goggles, you start to rely on them too much and soon you find yourself flipping them on and off because it's easier to aim without them and sometimes you're thinking you're shooting them, when instead your just hitting a wall because you can't bloody see it's there with this x-ray shit. I think the game was better for the most part when you didn't have them.

I also found the voice acting a bit crap. Ironside (you'll recognise his face if not his voice) is a pretty good Sam Fisher, but his tone always seems like he just doesn't care, which makes him kinda cool but at the same time no matter what happens, Fisher's almost entirely indifferent. Also, it flashes through time which is annoying seeing as I don't really know what's going on in the first place and it's being narrated by some guy who is in some kind of jail (why?!). Unfortunately, the biggest downfall is it's too short. Way too short. It probably took me about 6 hours all in all, which is either because I'm great, or because they thought people might get bored, which is highly possible. The problem is that as much as the sneaking is great, then if you usually don't do it perfectly and get seen, chances are you can die pretty quickly. After a while you start realising that it's better and easier to go guns a blazing and take them out really quickly, which is probably why it didn't take too long because after dying once or twice, I got impatient. As well as this, when you are in hiding, the screen goes black and white which is kind of cool, but means that you spend a fair bit of the game playing a black and white game, which is pretty stupid. It could go slightly more greyer perhaps, but completely black and white? No thanks.

Now the bad stuff is out the way, it's time to look at the pro list and to be honest, there's a lot on it. Style wise it's great, memories and mission objectives look projected onto the environment and it is a really great idea. The directing in the cut scenes is great and looks very 24, shaky cam and random zooming in and out included. The graphics look incredible, as always and the different missions are somewhat varied and fun, whether it's all-out fighting in Iraq, interrogating suspects, listening in to conversations or running after a hitman, there's enough to break up the sneaking action to keep you interested. However, by the end of the game, stealth is almost out of the window and it's a shame seeing as that the most enjoyable aspects of the game are usually the silent takedowns.

The backdrops are also incredible, walking through a messed up Washington as people are crying trying to save their other halves is great and, like everything about the game, is a nice little touch. The gameplay has also been updated and works surprisingly well. If you take down an enemy using your bare hands, you get the ability to use an 'execute' command, whereby you 'tag' different enemies and when you're in a position to get a clear shot, you press the execute button and Sam takes out the lot of them in one go - which looks cool. The crouch and move buttons work remarkably well and the sneaking is great fun, running around finding different ways to get around keeps you entertained and the shadow you leave which is your 'last known position' is a cool little idea. The noise, death-defying moves and all that are gone for a more 'real' (if you can ever describe a Splinter Cell as that) approach and it definitely makes you feel like you're The Man, which is never a bad thing. The tagging idea makes you use your brain perhaps more than in previous incarnations, and if someone was watching you do it, you'd look bloody cool clearing a room in about 2 seconds flat, but hey, no biggie.

The co-op and multiplayer modes work well and you can unlock certain achievements by doing certain actions, which is supposed to add to the replay value, but to be honest, apart from perhaps the co-op, I doubt I'll return to it, but there's enough for people who love the game to go back and perfect it.

Overall, this is a step forward for the Splinter Cell series but I can't help but think that it's lost it's initial appeal. The story is pointless and completely linear, the constant sneaking around verges on the annoying by the end but the action is excellent, it's definitely improved on previous criticisms and it's a whole lot of fun. It doesn't quite come up to Metal Gear Solid, but then let's be honest, it never will. If you enjoyed Splinter Cell before, you'll enjoy this and it's definitely the best one yet (that I've played anyway) but as soon as I put the controller down, I forgot about it. Worth your money, but don't expect the world. The people who might rave about it are probably in awe of the graphics and general fun, but there are better games out there and I think Splinter Cell still has some lessons to learn. If it was even a tiny bit longer, it would have got an 8 but instead ...

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 16 April 2010

Cemetery Junction

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant present us with this nostalgia trip back to their homeland of Reading during the Seventies. But after disastrous results like The Invention Of Lying, does the return of Merchant prove to be another winner, or should it just be left for dead? The Wild Bore goes up the junction to find out.

I used to be a big fan of Gervais, but recently his output has been somewhat crap. The Invention Of Lying might have been one of the worst films in the last decade, Ghost Town was alright, but he only starred in it rather than writing it. Even his stand-up hasn't been that great and I think it's clear he is at the top of his game when he is with Merchant. This film would prove this theory correct.

But don't go rushing out just yet because as much as this film was enjoyable, it felt like an ITV Sunday drama. The story is about three mates, one full of ambition for the 2.4 children lifestyle, the other one more care-free who is just shooting the breeze, and the fat, funny one. Julie, the love interest, is about to settle down as the nice little housewife but has aspiring dreams to be a photographer. The whole thing is basically about finding themselves, whether it's in Reading or not.

The Seventies setting worked well, the great music and amazing fashion really stood out and I'm sure a lot of the audience will gladly reminisce about their own youth. But trying to update it by using language such as 'cunt' and 'fit' made it jar slightly and, apart from the fact it's supposed to be about Gervais and Merchant's own youth, there's no real reason for this to be set during that time, apart from quaintness. The suburban frustrations still run solid today and that no matter what, kids will always think they are special. Which quite frankly is dangerous, look at the Americans for example (heyo!). The setting works though and casual racism and sexism that (as far as I know) was around back then, isn't being held back and, as people familiar with Gervais will know, can be quite cringeworthingly funny. But that's just it. It's absolutely not a comedy - though peppered with humorous bits, it's actually very serious.

Main character Freddie wants the big house, the big car and all that, but as the film progresses he sees how that lifestyle, and the people involved, can lead to nothing but an applause and a punch bowl, which is a great representation of how empty it all becomes. His job of selling life insurance says it all, people thrive on adventure and living for the moment, but everything he's planned out suddenly looks stale and he realises that there's a bigger world out there. His old sweetheart Julie spurs this on, her own sense of adventure inspires him to the point where he is constantly directly quoting her, however she believes she can have it all, the married lifestyle and the wide, open world for her to explore - but unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. Freddie is also working for her Dad, one of my favourite actors Ralph Fiennes, and she suddenly sees how her fiancee Matthew Goode, is just becoming a clone of her father. Freddie's own Dad, Ricky Gervais, surprisingly ruins the whole thing. You cannot see Gervais as a factory worker as he looks like he hasn't done a hard day's work in his life, his arms look useless and flabby and you can't help but still see traces of David Brent in everything he does. To be honest, he should now be stepping away from in front of the camera and concentrate on being behind it before we all get too sick of him. A cameo would be fine, like Merchant's brief yet hilarious one in this, and someone could have been better cast to play Freddy's dad than himself. It's once again a selfish move by a shameless self-promoter.

As much as I enjoyed all the acting in the movie (but Gervais), the real standout was Tom Hughes who plays Bruce. His character was not only more enjoyable to watch, but perfectly executed. He looks fucking cool for a start, like Lou Reed Velvet Underground era, and is a rebel with a heart, he'll stand up for his mates and for his principles. Even though his anger against his father is directed against others, he doesn't just kick off for no reason, he's an angry young man and wants to be like James Dean. Freddy might go on about how Bruce is just scared to leave the town, but you start to realise maybe he stays because he wants to be with his mates, or maybe that he doesn't want to leave his father or for some unfinished business of sorts. Whatever it is, he knows he can't leave until he's sorted himself out. His realisation about his father is horribly affecting, and a little too close to home for me but even though the story's emphasis is on Freddy, the true story is about Bruce and perhaps having him in the front of the poster is more telling than we suspect.

Then the comic relief, Snork, is a lovable idiot and, like a lot of people, is perfectly happy to just stay where he is. This pretty much sums up what the film is about. Even though your hometown is a piece of shit, no matter if you run away, stay or put things off until a bit later, it's your choice to make and you should do whatever makes you happy. This leaves a more heartwarming feeling than just trying to tell people that they should definitely go explore because, for some people, they just don't need to, and will probably be just as happy, perhaps happier, than if they go away. But then it does inspire you that there's more out there than what you can see, and that's always a good thing.

It's a shame that, by the end, it all gets a bit cheesy and feels too sweet and mainstream, something I wouldn't have thought of Gervais and Merchant, but there's enough here to keep every type of audience entertained. I wouldn't go see this at the cinema if you can help it, as like I said, it's a nice Sunday evening viewing, but it's not going to blow anyone away. It's a sweet little film and it's good to see the comedy writing duo doing something different and proving they can be taken seriously. A step forward perhaps, but by no means a leap.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Gaming News


Metal Gear Solid: Rising

It's finally here! The new episode in MGS which will feature Raiden, and not shitty Raiden from MGS2 either, but the hardcore totally fucked up Ninja one from MGS4. As a little treat for my little Bores (that's you) here's the teaser trailer for the game. Aren't you spoilt?!





Gears Of War 3

Not much has been said about the new Gears Of War except that it might be the final one in the series. By the looks of the trailer, there's a new female character as well. There's also talk of 4 player co-op.The first two were incredible and I can't wait to get back into the fray! Here's the trailer for your eyes only.




Demon's Souls

This Namco Bandai game was a RPG PS3 exclusive last year and was regarded overseas as one of the top games of the year. The reason you might not have heard of it? It's because it's only just been talked about getting a release over here in Europe. Something to look forward to for anyone who has completed FFXIII.

Infinity Ward

Modern Warfare's kids have started to leave the sinking ship after Activision fired it's founding members. The two have now gone off to start up their own company (again) but this time with EA, 13 people have left since this was announced only a little while back. Uncertain future for CoD now perhaps.

F.3.A.R

F.E.A.R gets another chapter where Alma is set to have another freakish son but this time you have the option of going co-op! Though strangely, you can play as Point Man or Fettel who are enemies, so as much as you might be assisting each other, you can go off and do your own thing as well which is something quite unique. Can't upload the live-action trailer for some reason but it's on YouTube.

Transformers

For all you uber-geeks like me out there, you might cream your pants. Activision have announced Transformers: War On Cybertron, where it's an all out slug fest on their home planet. It takes after the actual anime series rather than the films thank God and after seeing the trailer, I think Michael Bay will have a lot to live up to when this is released in June. Check it out on YouTube, I can't upload the bastard.

New iPhone!

Hold on to your old handsets for the moment because what with the release of Apple's 4.0 iPhone OS, June 22nd has been booked to reveal the brand new spanking iPhone. Rumours suggest it will obviously be faster, but also have a forward-facing camera and 4G wireless support. With the 4.0 OS offering a multi-tasking ability so you can run several apps at once, it also has an Xbox Live-like gaming system with achievements and all that, so the gaming aspect of the iPhone has been already given a dramatic focus, oh and you will be able to read books on it and all that.

New Xbox

If you haven't heard already, it looks like Microsoft is going to reveal it's new slim Xbox 360 model which is likely to coincide with the release of Natal. It looks set to have wireless stuff, perhaps play Blu-Rays and all that. So basically it's going to be a PS3.

Call of Duty

For those PS3 owners still awaiting the new Call of Duty maps, it looks like you'll only have to wait til early May to get hold of them. Keep waiting!

Heavy Rain

...is a huge success! It's topped a million units and looks set to get 1.5 million by the end of the year. Seeing as people thought it would get between 200-300 thousand, it just goes to prove time and time again that gaming is more for adults these days than kids.

E3

Of course June is the gaming month of the year as E3 takes place in LA. There looks set to be a lot on show but for me, Konami's announcement of a new Silent Hill game might top it!

Centurion


Neil Marshall takes us back to ye olde England during the beginning of Hadrian's Wall where the locals weren't happy and war was rife. So can the 'Marshall War Movie' as it's being dubbed live up to it's high expectations? There's only one way to find out. When in Rome...


When Neil Marshall came on the scene, I was excited to see another great British director who wasn't afraid to do what he wants. Unfortunately, that's also his downfall. Sure, I enjoyed Dog Soldiers but I didn't think it was as amazing as others did, but then when The Descent was released I was rocked to the core by how incredible it was. To this day, I still think it's one of the best horror films ever made and in my eyes Marshall could now do no wrong. Until Doomsday was released last year. What the hell was that? I still respected it for trying to be an Eighties B-Movie flick and thought that perhaps it just went a little wrong. That is until I saw Centurion, which now makes me think Marshall just had a stroke of luck with The Descent.

Even after my disappointment with Doomsday, I still came in to Centurion dead excited. What's not to like? The Roman Empire in Britain, Fassbender and Dominic West (better known as McNulty) - surely it's got to be a little bit good at least? Well you'd think so...

The problem is that I don't really know what it wanted to be. It begins as some Roman war movie against the savage Picts, then turns to a rescue mission, then a chase movie. It starts off well enough as you get introduced to the characters but then once the Romans are attacked on the road, instead of turning it up to 11, it goes down to a chilly 2. From then on, it's boring as heck. Fassbender wants to recover their general who is at the enemy camp, so after some lying low they get there and whoops, without revealing it, something goes wrong so then they have to run back to safety. There is only three of them at this point, and they are being chased by about four enemies. There's the classic injured party they have to drag along and the kind woman (wasn't she the borderline-legal-yet-amazing daughter from 28 Weeks Later?) who looks after them. That's basically it without giving too much of the predictable plot away.

In it's favour, the acting is great. Fassbender is incredible as always and it's just lucky that it's him as the main character or it would have been Doomsday all over again, West is also clearly enjoying revelling around as a mad Roman General and even, dare I say it, Noel Clarke didn't fuck me off quite like how he usually does. They even came up with the great idea of having Olga Kurylenko as a mute so she doesn't have to explain her accent or really even act, just stand around looking pretty. But the set pieces and the fact nearly everything is on such a small scale made it look more like a BBC drama than a full-blown cinematic experience. The final big fight is laughable and there is no sense of scale or even a timeframe during the entire film, the whole chase could have lasted less than a week for all I know, maybe it did? There is also not much about the Pict tribe, who are clearly more interesting and I would have liked to have seen more of and there is hardly any sense of danger, or foreboding, or dread when our heroes keep getting caught up with by their enemies. This is mainly due to the fact that Fassbender's character has already been proven to be a great warrior and you just feel like he could take them all on, let alone with the help of the others. Why be so scared of them? Is it because they have horses?

The extremely brief side story of the other two who got separated is completely unnecessary, to the point where I thought they were taking the piss and it was going to explode into some massive thing. Which it didn't. When they get to Hadrian's wall, the rest is utter nonsense. Without giving it away, the idea that Fassbender can do what he did and just walk away is mind-blowing and again, lazy writing.

There is also emphasis on how gory it is and yes, the blood and gore though CG'd to death, is pretty good, but nothing to go crazy about. They also seem to have only two sound effects for swords and the editing during this is horrible, it's literally about a hundred sword swooshes (baring in mind there seems to be only two different ones available) all to a regular beat, which makes it irritating over anything else. You know things are going wrong when during a bar brawl at the beginning, you couldn't have asked for anything to look more fake. Spot as many real-looking punches as you can, and I'd be surprised if you could count them on both hands.

Marshall takes pride in the fact that his shoots are short, but to enter into a film with such ambition is terribly self-destructive. Remember Kubrick would do a thousand takes just for someone to pick up a cup or something as mundane as that and if it's slap-dash to make, it will show on the screen. I respect the fact that he wants to do his own thing, but sometimes you can't be so arrogant to think that every idea you have is a great idea. I really hoped this would be good, but I had a horrible feeling it might be kind of crap and instead it hit even lower than that. It calls itself a Survival Thriller, and I'm sure it will be thrilled if it survives.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

A group of friends travel back to the Eighties and suddenly realise how much they've grown apart from not only each other, but from their true selves - and there's blowjobs, drinking and fighting too. Wooo!

A comedy for the boys, this rose-tinted nostalgic look back at the Eighties is full of gross-out humour, fraternal love but most of all, sentimentality. Craig Robinson (Daryl from The Office) plays Nick who was once a singer but now is just a doormat to his cheating wife, Clark Duke (mainly known for being in Kick-Ass and Greek) plays a geeky nephew who spends almost all of his time online, Rob Corddry (a recognisable face as a bit player in other films) is a self-destructive mess and John Cusack plays Adam, who cannot seem to hold his life together for more than five minutes.

The group seem to all be unhappy with their current situation and after Corddry's character Lou tries to subconsciously off himself, they decide to return to the ski resort where times were better. After some crazy drunk antics, they wake up to find themselves trapped in their former bodies (Quantum Leap style) in 1986 - after some great cultural references they realise that they don't want to do anything different or it could lead to some crazy results. Duke's Jacob emphasises this point as he is starting to disappear Back-To-The-Future style. Which is strange because Crispin Glover is in it as a man who is set to lose one arm. Why isn't Glover in more stuff?! Also, it looks like he hasn't aged since Back To The Future was released in 1985 and he's great in every part he plays. Okay, okay, I'm deviating I know ...

So when they start to realise they can change things for the better, they start to do it. From standing up to bullies, not dumping your perfect looking girlfriend to gambling and getting into threesomes, the group regresses and feel all the better for it. Meanwhile, Jacob is trying to get them all to stop changing the future in case he is gone for good and Chevy Chase walks in and out as some kind of Doctor Who - which is actually quite funny. Overall, they start to see that they have started to lose touch with each other and realise what friends are for. However, without ruining the story, once you see the ending, you realise they haven't really learnt anything at all and instead of working at something to make it better, instead it all just falls into place which is essentially lazy writing. But this is the main problem throughout the film, the set pieces aren't really that great, the ending doesn't really make sense and I'm a bit lost to the point of it all now, which is a shame because it could have worked better than it did.

Saying that, I did enjoy it. It was quite funny, but it was more for what seemed like improvisation rather than the script. John Cusack, who I'm not a great fan of anyway (and I still don't understand why some people are) is boring as fuck as the main protagonist, his character is just as tiresome as his acting and I have no idea why the story centres around him. The fact that director Steve Pink is a friend of his and that he produced it means that he had the ability to let someone more suited for the role to be cast, but selfishly chose himself. He really does ruin it for me as he's as bland as the snow it is set in, it's just lucky that the other characters make up for it. For what could have been a fantastic look back at an age of indulgence and fun, instead it relies on this and some crude jokes to keep it going. It wasn't promising much I realise by being called Hot Tub Time Machine, but I was expecting more than this. It's nice to take a dip in, it makes you feel warm but once you leave it? You're as cold and wet as ever.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 12 April 2010

Clash Of The Titans

A 3D sensation meant to blow your brains out but is it the work of Zeus or rather like staring into the eyes of Medusa? The Wild Bore takes on the Gods to find out.

Another 3D extravaganza starring Sam Worthington, this Greek myth gets a brand new re-imagining by Louis Leterrier, the guy who made The Transporter and The Incredible Hulk and, like his previous work there is no soul, no character and nothing but things that might look kinda 'cool'.

The thing is, at least with The Transporter it was so simple that you couldn't knock it for being convoluted, but strangely with the tale of Perseus already mapped out, a lot goes wrong. Namely the whole thing seems to happen so fast! His incredible fighting power seemingly unbeknowest to him until someone attacks, Worthington's cardboard response to find out that you're a bloody demi-God from Zeus himself is remarkable and some weird love story that just doesn't make sense.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The idea here is that the humans aren't praying anymore which feeds the Gods (what are we?! 12?!) so in anger Zeus agrees for Hades to take over a bit and release the Kraken. Hades unfortunately kills Perseus's family and our hero is there when Hades tells the kingdom of (giggle) Argos that they have to sacrifice the Princess in ten days or the Kraken will destroy Argos (please no! It'll be like Woolworths all over again!). Thus Perseus and some others decide they need to destroy the Kraken instead and not cave in to the Gods' wishes.

In theory, this could work so easily that it hurts but instead it's just a confusing sequence of events that tries, and fails, to have some character depth. Where to begin? Well, let's get all the story shit out of the way, firstly the film is somewhat of a father/son relationship tale but Zeus is playing both the good guy and the bad guy, he will release the Kraken and even agree to abandon Perseus in one scene, then be coming down to try and help a bit later. What? Why not just stop all this nonsense from the beginning?! It almost makes me quiver in embarrassment it's so badly executed. Then there's Gemma Arteton's Lo who acts as a guide for Perseus, which is fair enough, but they then have one kind of love scene, (which is more awkward than anything) and then they are suddenly destined to be lovers. I don't think being with her for all eternity was what Perseus had in mind seeing as he hardly knew the bloody girl.

So the journey begins and some Orc-like creature is on their tail, when they have a fight with him his blood sprouts ... huge scorpions? Why? Is this what Hades was supposed to have given him? Scorpion blood? Also who the hell are these weird blue sand creatures, are they in Greek mythology? I don't think so. They look like they should be in Star Wars! Soon they travel to the Underworld and the Medusa fight is awful, not only is it not scary in the slightest (the original stop-animated one was a million times scarier and less real) but I didn't know what was going on, Perseus is hanging at one point and hoists up his mate, but I don't understand where to. The editing is so fast and crap, that sometimes you have no idea where everyone is and what they are doing, this casual disparaging view of the audience who are presumably constantly suspending belief anyway shouldn't be used in films today, audiences are getting smarter and they need to keep up with it. Anyone who walked away from Clash of the Titans thinking it was great was probably watching it while playing truant.

Finally when he surfs in against the Kraken, the whole thing lasts about five minutes and he saves the Princess, which might as well have been a sheep for what it was worth. He takes a lucky smack against Hades who is banished to the Underground in a piss-poor way and that's it. Did I really just fork out the extortionate 3D rates that cinemas are charging for this?! I can understand how the Zeus/Perseus thing could be interesting if better told, I can even understand the idea of rising up against the Gods, but looking into the production further you can see it was plagued by script re-writes and re-shoots, that the original vision of one man against the Gods becomes a mess because of too many people sticking their noses in. It's in essence a road movie, and you shouldn't stray too far from that, but it's proof that Letterier is all style and no substance and can't handle the big projects. I doubt he'll get a budget like this again, but unfortunately as is the way of Hollywood, there will probably be a sequel because idiots like me have forked out to see it, even just to see a 3D film. So you never know.

But putting to one side the awful plot, what's the effects and all that like? Well, not that good either. Everything looks so CG that it makes me sick they could even have let it pass. The 3D-ness is okay, but it was fuzzy around the sides and I could have easily been watching it in 2D and it wouldn't have mattered, there wasn't much depth of scenery nor anything sticking out of the screen, instead it felt like the 3D aspect was an after-thought, which is a shame. You'd think Worthington might have even piped up seeing as he was in the greatest 3D epic yet. But alas no, and this film does truly show his acting colours which are grey to say the least. Even Neeson and Fiennes don't put their all into it and it's apparent that this was just a paycheck for them and nothing more. Even the comic relief of two weird hunters doesn't get more than two lines, the religious guys in Argos are inconsequential and other characters are as flat as the screen it's being projected on.

I'm trying hard to think of some good stuff but there's not much. The action is so fast that you're not often left bored until the end, which should be amazing but just isn't, the bit with the three witches is probably the best scene and the costumes are pretty good, but the fact that I'm even discussing the costume as a plus is proof of how bad this film is. Don't go to see it unless you have to. The money might be up on the screen but there's far more superior stuff out there. I'm only giving this marks because of a certain bang for your buck and that I was at least able to sit through it. But for something like Clash Of The Titans, you'd really hope it was more than just Cash For The Titans.

Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Shadow Of The Colossus

Taking a step back into a pre-gen console classic, The Wild Bore takes on the much-applauded Japanese game that is still being bid on like crazy on eBay and still sends tremors through the gaming world.

To some this is a vintage classic like no other. Never before, or since, has a game been so original, innovative and pain-achingly beautiful and yet remained so epic, simple to play and just fucking amazing. All this on a Playstation 2 and, even though playing it on a PS3 might pull up the graphics somewhat, it still looks incredible. But for those not already aware of this cult classic, what's it about?

You play a young lad who's missus is dead, and so to bring her back you take her to a forbidden land and make a deal with some sort of dark creature. The deal is you are to kill every single Colossi (or Colossus) and in return, she will be brought back to life. Simple enough. So with just your ancient sword guiding you, your bow and arrow and your faithful horse Agro for company, you are to travel the land and defeat the Colossi one by one.

Firstly, the graphics make you look like you are travelling through a painting. The colours and light can look rich at times, bleak in others, reflecting whether you're in a lush green field, a desert or atop a mountain. The sound is incredible and feels like you're in a fantasy film and even picks up the pace when you're duelling with a Colossi. The controls are fairly easy consisting of stabbing and shooting but you'll mostly be playing a balancing act between jumping, gripping and resting to get your strength back. Your horse Agro allows you to travel the plains and comes in use when dealing with certain enemies, he is in fact your most reliable and trustworthy, dare I say it, friend. You go up against so much together that if anything ever happens to him, you suddenly get really worried, it's only supposed to be a bloody game for God's sake!

So what actually happens? You basically have to kill 16 of these huge creatures and the set-up is the same in each scenario. You follow your sword to the fighting ground, a cut-scene introduces the Colossi, then you have to figure out a way to get on top of it and then climb your way to it's soft spots to kill it. Each one acts differently and it becomes a tactical game on a monumental scale, whether you have to jump on top of a huge bird-like creature, gallop alongside a sandworm one and jump off your horse or simply hold on to a water dragon one as it flows through the lakes. Each one is exciting and you have your heart in your throat each time, if you fall or fail, you will have to climb atop once again and it's all one big flowing world - you aren't cornered off at all, if you fall off a flying beast, you could land anywhere and have to find a way back. Some of these creatures you cannot even fathom how you are going to get on it, let alone kill it and it's the whole one small boy taking on a huge giant that reveals the passion behind the game. It's the idea of having all the odds stacked against you, having to tackle an issue a billion times bigger than yourself and all for the sake of love. Even as you defeat them one by one, you might be getting somewhat stronger but you soon realise you are growing paler as you absorb the dead souls and you understand that you are in fact, slowly dying.

There's nothing that can prepare you for dealing with the Colossi on such a monumental scale but rest assured you will be able to fathom out how to kill each one by using your smarts and gaming skills. There's nothing quite as satisfying as dealing that final killer blow, but as you wake up again with another black soul of the Colossi staring down at you, you cannot help but feel sorry for them as they are tend to be just going about their business until you turn up. Some of these monsters took quite a while to kill while others took no time at all but the main annoying point of the game was finding the buggers. I found myself often running around on my horse with no idea where to go and even, shock horror, used a walkthrough to figure out where the next one bloody was. This, to be fair, is enough to put people off but a minor irritant to a somewhat perfect game and, seeing as the environment is so bloody gorgeous, it's worth running around in it just to have a look.

So are there other flaws? Unfortunately yes, but teeny tiny ones. Mainly, I found controlling the horse somewhat annoying. Tapping 'x' to get him to go faster was just a nuisance and sometimes I found myself jumping around him when I'm trying to get on him which, in some urgent cases, left me screaming at the screen telling him to get on. Also the jumping/gripping combo feels like it needed a shine that something like Uncharted has, but seeing as this game was made in 2005 - you can't blame it!

This game makes me want to go back and complete Ico, which I never got round to doing and also conjures up exciting images of the next Team Ico project due out on PS3 later this year in Japan. It is also a reminder that, like movies, some games will always be perfect and this is another example of how video games should be winning awards for sheer originality if not for anything else, it's a work of art and should be treated as such. Never before had a game like this been created and never will it again. I can't imagine many game developers in America walking into the office going 'OK, one kid on a horse, 16 bosses - nothing else, and there's next to no dialogue' and everyone giving it the green light, but this comes from a time where the Japanese were taking chances and changing the course of gaming, which says a lot nowadays seeing as the country's gaming produce is somewhat of a cliche (new Yakuza game anyone? Jesus!).

There's a reason why this game is still doing well over five years on and if I was you, I'd even try buying a PS2 again just to play it. It might seem a bit much giving this a perfect score, but as soon as I completed it after a good 9 hours of gameplay, I started it again almost immediately. I don't think I've ever done that with a game before and so that's really saying something. If you like the classic David Vs. Goliath story, you might as well take it to the extreme because the Goliath's don't get much bigger than this. See that huge creature in the distance? The one that's about as tall as the Empire State building? Give it fifteen minutes and you'll soon be on top of it's head trying to stab it to death. A colossal score to a colossal game - if only there were more about like this.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, 2 April 2010

Kick Ass

Another comic book adaptation in an already bloated genre, but does this new Matthew Vaughn flick kick some ass or compared to achievements like The Dark Knight and Iron Man, have it's ass well and truly kicked?

Matthew Vaughn's previous director credits have done well (Layer Cake, Stardust), but this is arguably his first big Hollywood picture and it seems that it won't be his last. Not only for the fact that Kick Ass has already got a sequel and a prequel in the works before it was even released, but because it's bloody great!

The main reason I like this is because Kick Ass himself, is shit. He might be full of bravado and have a brief spell of being numb to pain after getting shanked, but he is constantly getting beaten up and is well out of his depth - which makes him even more likable. It's almost a parody of the original Spiderman film, the geeky guy who fancies the hot girl, experiments with his powers (or lack thereof with hillllllaaaaarious results) and takes on some bigwig criminal, but it's taken all the good bits of it and made it better by making it completely 'normal'.

The story is quite basic in that Kick Ass wants to do some good, but instead becomes a YouTube sensation and gets mixed up in the exploits of real superheroes Big Daddy and Hit-Girl who are causing the real chaos. Bad guy Frank D'Amico blames Kick-Ass and soon his son, the wonderfully geeky Christopher Mintz-Plasse, takes on the moniker Red Mist to lure Kick-Ass into a trap to prove he can be as evil as his father. That's basically it. Simple and it works. Side stories such as Kick-Ass pretending to be gay to spend time with his crush, his two mates as more comic relief and Big Daddy's haunted past are given adequate enough time without pulling away from the main plot and shows that big movies can still have a great script.

The acting is also great - Nic Cage works wonderfully as the action-hero father, Chris Mintz-Plasse does his usual thing which always works, Aaron Johnson as KickAss is perfectly balanced between geeky, brave yet believable but the real stand out is Hit-Girl actress Chloe Grace Moretz. The best action is with her involved and she also gets the best lines, her character arc is much more interesting and you can actually believe in a weird way that a little girl like her might exist and she's like what ... eleven? Incredible.

The music is great, the palette, cinematography and general vibe of the film is fun, energetic and yet still has it's more dark and sinister moments. By no means is this one of the best superhero films ever, but it's a hell of a lot better than most of them out there and it's not afraid to take the piss out of itself either. The minor flaws that do exist aren't the fault of anyone involved but rather being picky about what I wanted to see (more action, more Big Daddy, more of an ending) but I'd definitely watch it again and would recommend it to anyone young or old. Now go kick some ass!

Rating: 8/10