Saturday, 24 July 2010


"An idea is like a virus" states DiCaprio and seeing as this hasn't left my mind since I've seen it, he couldn't be more correct.

I'm guessing most people have already heard the incredible feedback this film has received and so might walk into it thinking 'how great can this be?' and the answer is, it is perhaps one of the best films I've ever seen.

This isn't like Empire where they throw top marks at everything that's not complete crap (and sometimes even then they don't hold back), but this is a brave, original, perfectly crafted work of art. Yes it's art. Art can still be a commercial success and at least this isn't up it's own arse.

If you're not familiar with what it's about I can tell you the less you know the better. So I'm not going to reveal too much but let's say it's got a unique blend of different genres - action, heist, spy, sci-fi, thriller, horror, fantasy, drama and even a bit of comedy thrown in every now and then. DiCaprio is a man with a haunted past that is able with his crew to penetrate people's dreams.

That's the basis and I don't want to reveal more of the plot than this as it's a review, not an essay. Though I'm sure a lot of film students will have a field day on this film as it beckons more questions than The Matrix ever did. The symbolism, science and pretty much everything is enough to keep your mind busy for a while and what's great is that - it makes sense.

It doesn't patronise the audience by talking to them like a child, but it explains in simple enough terms all the intricacies of how the science of it all works and it is clearly a topic Nolan had thought to death about. Nothing is spared, every possible loophole filled and leaves the audience satisified (unlike the awful writing of Lost for example).

So let's move on to Nolan. There's no denying the man is a genius, he knows how to make a true film and you can see the passion he puts into his work all over the screen. The directing cannot be bettered and I would go as far as to say he is possibly my favourite contemporary director after this film. Not one of his past movies (not just Dark Knight - but Memento, Insomnia etc.) has ever failed to be nothing short of incredible. His confident, brave and bold projects shows that it really does pay to take a chance and take on something most directors wouldn't dare. The fact that he wrote Inception (I'd imagine he let his brother at least look over it) shows that his personal involvement with these films puts people like Bay and more to shame. Nolan has taught us that even subject matter like a comic book hero doesn't mean it has to be anything less than amazing.

Back to Inception though. It's possibly the first time that I have looked at a film and thought the CG looks entirely real. Completely believable. The fight scenes were enough to beat Heat & The Matrix (which if you remember were pretty much the best bits of the respective films) and the action is relentless. Like all Nolan films, not one scene is filler - every single moment in the film is relevant and even at a lengthy 2 and a half hours, I would have stayed and watched the whole thing again happily. It also shows that to have such an amazing scale, you don't need to be in 3D either and that it probably would have possibly ruined the film should people have been too obsessed with the 3D aspect of it. Thoughts?

Either way, the acting was perfect, I even enjoyed watching Page whom I hated before this film. Tom Hardy once again proves he is Britain's best young hope and even DiCaprio works on his Shutter Island performance to give a depth and gravitas I've never seen him do before. Even the score, cinematography, script and basically everything is incredible, I cannot gush about this enough. Fuck Toy Story 3 - if you've got a choice, choose this.

Saying that, it can't be completely perfect right? Well, that's true. For some reason, the first fifteen minutes felt a bit Johnny Mnemonic to me and I started to get a bit wary of where this was going, although luckily that feeling left quite soon. Also Michael Caine jarred with me slightly as I felt like he was just going to turn around and go "Yes Mr. Wayne" at any point. The fact that they go through so much trouble to plant an idea in someones head also feels ridiculous - surely there are easier ways of manipulation? And wouldn't it take someone just to go 'that's ridiculous, why would you do that?' to counteract it? Unless you truly believe it's like a disease and that you get obsessed with it. I don't know ...

However, these are such slight niggling things that all it will do is detract from your enjoyment of what is a perfect piece of film-making. I don't think anyone could argue that the way the dream layers come together at the end is nothing short of a superb piece of storytelling that could have easily gone wrong at any point. And the final shot? That's enough to drive you mad forever.

I can hardly fault this film and to be honest, I shouldn't, because if more film-makers like Nolan were around this truly would be a wondrous world. I'd just love to have a look at what goes on inside that head of his, but I guess this is the closest I'll ever get.
Maybe ....

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Knight & Day

Cruise is back to prove he can still pull in the crowds, but is it time to call it a (Knight &) Day?

I have a problem with Tom Cruise. Mainly because I really, really want to like him. I'm a big fan of his work and I don't really know why. I loved him in Risky Business to Vanilla Sky to Minority Report to Eyes Wide Shut to Mission Impossible (3) to Tropic Thunder and every time, like a giddy schoolgirl, I fall for his charm. Damn it I don't know why! So when I walked into this movie I was ready to be dazzled and in all fairness, I was.

Cruise's character Roy is an example of self-aware over-acting to the point where it comes back on itself and becomes fun. This is hyperbolic to a tee and Cruise wallows in the ridiculously charismatic yet dangerous Roy that he embodies. The emotional pull here is supposed to be his relationship with Diaz and that he might be able to do anything, but can he commit? But don't worry, they don't focus too much on this. Instead, the plot follows Diaz as she gets entangled in Roy's world and suddenly gets a new lust for life, not that anything was really wrong with her life in the first place. Which is the problem...

Firstly, Cameron Diaz looks old. I mean, yeah she's glamorous and everything but look at her hands, what has she done to herself? And her skin? My God, the poor make-up artist involved in that must have been well paid. Don't get me wrong, she's gorgeous but it's definitely the beginning of the end for her and she should start looking at some more mature roles rather than these fun ones, and leave them to the youngsters they belong to. It's only because Cruise looks a bit old too now that she gets away with it but if it was anyone like Chris Evans (not the ginger one), she would have looked more like his mum. Her acting is confident and fun, but she's just a canvas for Cruise to paint himself on and she really does try to hold her own, but this is really the Tom Cruise show. As strong and independent as they try to make her, really she's just pathetic.

I won't give anything away as I thought it was more enjoyable letting them drip feed you information rather than knowing anything at all, but it's a globe-trotting action flick that cranks everything up to 11 and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The script is cheesy and laughable but it does what it says on the tin.

Overall, it's a good bang for your buck and a bunch of nonsense, but it went on for a lot longer than I wished and though some parts worked, the cheese smelt so bad I had to turn away at places. If you hate Tom Cruise, then why are you even reading this? If you like him, you'll probably enjoy this and if, like me, you seem to be strangely captivated by him, it might be worth it. It's no Mission Impossible 3 (which I LOVED and don't care if people didn't) but it's not as bad as Charlie's Angels. If you like a no-brainer action piece you can take the missus to, then go see it, but you'll forget about it in a couple of days, and you should probably go see Inception instead.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Transformers: War For Cybertron

Is this another crappy spin-off videogame about our robotic alien friends, or is there more to this than meets the eye?

When I first saw the trailer for this game, I wasn't sure what to make of it as Transformer games in the past have been pretty crap. But the idea of fighting on the home world of Cybertron without crap Earth stuff around was a new concept I was quite excited about. I then read IGN's review, which gave it an incredible 9/10 and so gave it the chance.

For those who don't know, the game takes place way before the Transformers have even discovered Earth, Optimus isn't even Optimus Prime yet, instead this game covers how he becomes leader of the Autobots and why they must leave their home planet. For the geeks out there, you see how Prime gets the Matrix, the first view of the ship they crash to Earth in and how Starscream met Megatron. What makes this game special is it hasn't followed the films at all and instead has kept with the original (and better) premise.

You start off as a Decepticon (though you can do the story of the Autobots to begin with if you wish) and you're trying to contaminate Cybertron with 'dark matter', whereas with the Autobots you are trying to stop them. This makes the evil storyline more sneaking around (if you can call it that) whereas the Autobot storyline is more gun-ho and a lot more fun. There's nothing much else to it! You complete mini missions in an epic setting as different characters (should you wish) and all the usual characters get a look in, including Soundwave, Bumblebee and other favourites.

Cybertron is a living breathing planet and looks great, but it's so detailed that soon it gives you a slight headache. It's like there is a wire mesh over everything and, though I can't think of a solution to this, it makes the visuals seem almost messy. Apart from that it looks good, but I still feel there's something missing, there's not much of a score and everything looks the same no matter where you go in the game.

The gameplay is satisfactory, the transforming plays well and works and you have enough different guns and grenades to keep you busy. The AI is also impressive, your teammates know what to do and the enemies don't always just concentrate all their fire on you. The flying and driving plays well, but feels soft and slow which is unfortunate as I would loved for that to really work, but it could have been a lot worse.

It's a lot of good fun but it really is just the same thing again and again. You have to get somewhere, push a button, kill some bad guys, and move on and so on and so forth. They try to make it slightly varied but really, it feels like a poor man's Halo but tinged with Gears of War. Saying this, that doesn't make it a bad thing, but I wanted to complete it for the sake of completing it rather than for enjoyment.

I never got the chance to try at online co-op but I think this would make it a whole lot more fun and the deathmatches etc. were a good laugh. You unlock different modes, create your own Transformer but after playing the entire game, you can't help but feel that really, it's just the same thing against real people and soon the novelty wears thin.

How anyone can give this 9 out of 10 is slightly mind-blowing. Yes it works for fan-boys and the general public alike and it's great fun with a different twist on the Transformers franchise but it's a one-trick pony, and yes it might be one hellavu trick, but there's not enough to justify it as being one of the best games out there at the moment, because it isn't. If you like Transformers then you'll love it, but I'd wait until it comes down in price or maybe rent it for a bit, but if you just want to play a good shoot 'em up, there are better ones out there.

Good, but not great. Sorry IGN.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 12 July 2010

The A-Team

When there is no plan B? Just film a remake.

Well, I wouldn't be the first person to say it's been quite a dismal summer of films so far. Shrek and Toy Story 3 seem to be bubbling beneath the radar more than their predecessors, the new Twilight film has completely thrown away any trace of trying to cater for all audiences and decided to please it's core audience and overall there's a profound sense of disappointment. Another one to add to the list then is The A-Team.

No-one would come into this movie thinking they are going to get cinema gold, so it's good that expectations are somewhat low, because it meets them. If you're a fan of the original series (which I found quite camp, but I'm sure others would beg to differ) then you're more than likely in for a treat as it doesn't try to be something it isn't - it is, after all, pure action.

The story is, to be honest, confusing enough that anything is plausible, but takes enough baby steps through the plot to make sure you don't ask any questions. What we're left with is set piece after set piece of little missions that make up a rather, dare I say it, almost boring action film. The CG looks fake, the out-and-out ridiculous action borders on stupidity and every cliche box is ticked. But then, there are parts I enjoyed.

What the all-important factor of The A-Team is that once you've taken away the political subtexts and social commentaries, you're left with a bunch of friends who look out for each other. Sheer male bonding. Luckily, the writers have focused more on this leaving you with the sense that they do actually care for each other and taking your focus away from the plot. Liam Neeson plays his mentor card (a card that he's using way too much recently) and again proves that he can do action, even at his ripe old age, his younger counter-part, and the main focus of the film, is Bradley Cooper's Face and, he nails it. His cheeky bravado and charm makes him perfectly cast but it is only when we get the 'love' bits that he lets us down, it's a subplot that is shoved in horribly into the story and jars like trying to justify putting a dancing monkey on the screen. That doesn't happen by the way.

Sharlto Copley (better known for his work in the amazing District 9) is the real stand-out and hopefully more work will be coming his way because of this. Even UFC fighter Quinton Jackson does well but in all fairness cannot compete with Mr T. His knuckles that bare 'Pity' and 'Fool' just seem a bit stupid seeing as he never says it and the van is hardly in the film. His story of trying to come to terms with his conscience is also horribly wrong and completely uncalled for. I don't really care if he has a soft side, I want to see him kick some ass blaxploitation style, which never really happens. Jessica Biel might as well have been played by a sock with eyes stuck on and Patrick Wilson tries to give the quirky bad guy a go, but I think he's more suited for 'real' acting.

Overall, the film is a mess and soon you just want it to end. As far as action films go, there's a lot worse and it gets points for trying, but is let down by a bad script and lack of originality. In fact, it could almost ruin your idea of The A Team, but then the series wasn't that great.
Was it?

Rating: 6/10