Friday, 29 October 2010


Playstation Phone

People are starting to work themselves up into a frenzy that the Playstation Phone will be around the corner soon. However, even though it's been verified that Sony are working on a device that doesn't need constant Wi-Fi but uses a cellular network, it might be assumed that this will just be the PSP2 people have been hearing about.

The image here was 'leaked' online but it's hard to say whether it's real or not. Apparently it will run on Google Android and feature direct access to the Sony Marketplace. Engadget says the device pictured features a 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8655 mobile processor, 512MBs of RAM, 1GBs of ROM, a 3.7 to 4.1-inch touchscreen display, a built-in camera with LED flash, and the slider panel. The bit in the middle is a touch sensitive surface rather than analog sticks and well, that's about it.

Sony have neither confirmed nor denied the picture which means it either is a proper leak, or it's just creating online buzz as a marketing ploy, or both. Either way, let's hope it's not like the N:Gage. Do you know anyone who bought that? Let me know - because they weren't cheap!

Dark Knight Returns

Christopher Nolan has announced that Batman 3 will be entitled 'The Dark Knight Rises' and, although we know Tom Hardy will be in it, we still don't know as what. Nolan ruled out the Riddler making an appearance and it will be shot in 2D like the last one. There have been rumours that the villain might be a woman ... let's hope it's not Halle Berry again.


If, like me, you were still holding out in the hope that Caprica could get better then don't bother, it's been cancelled. Ratings and reviews were tough (Wild Bore one will be up as soon as I finish the first season), but with it's painfully slow storyline and with no action, it's hardly surprising. The Battlestar fans were never going to get on board with it as it has been lacking anything that had drawn their interest. Has anyone else been watching it?

Instead Syfy has asked BGS makers to concentrate on Cyclon Wars set prequel Blood & Chrome, with a young Bill Adama taking on the Cylons. At the moment, it's just a TV pilot but could turn into a series completely set during the war, which would be a lot better.

If you're a big fan of Caprica don't worry, they will be drip feeding the end of the first season throughout the beginning of 2011. Yawn.

Star Wars New Films & 3D Extravaganza

If you didn't already know, George Lucas is going to squeeze out even more money by re-releasing the entire 6 Star Wars films in 3D (as well as the 4 Indiana Jones films) and if it is to be believed, that afterwards he will embark on three new films taking place during Episodes 4-6 but nothing to do with the main characters. This also will be completely separate to the confirmed Star Wars TV series that was greenlit a little while ago. Is it all a bit too much? What do you think?

South Park "Insheeption" Rip Off

Oh dear, for what is normally my favourite original show it looks like the South Park crew have ripped off College Humour in terms of their Inception jokes last week. They have since apologised but here's the original College Humour video and the end is great, what do you think? Worth apologising for?

See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

The Hobbit

In case you don't know, Martin Freeman (Tim from The Office) is now
going to be Bilbo in Jackson's The Hobbit. Is this a good call? I will hedge
my bets after his carbon copy acting that might as well be renamed as
the following. "Tim From The Office In Space!" (Hitch-hiker's Guide
To The Galaxy), "Tim From The Office At School" (Nativity) etc. etc.,
but let's wait and see. Oh and Sylvester McCoy, the Time Lord himself,
might pop up as a wizard.

Avatar Sequels

And so the time has come for Cameron to announce that he will be
filming Avatar 2 and 3 back to back to be released at Christmas
2014 and 2015. Apparently they will be self-contained stories,
so I don't think it will be a Matrix blunder this time. Do you think
they should just leave it alone?

Devil May Cry

Capcom are doing quite well at the moment. Dead Rising 2 has
made them a tonne of money so far and even DLC Dead Rising :
Case Zero (which I enjoyed) has made them a fair bit. People
have complained that these 'paid' pre-release items will mean
the end of free demos, but I argue that as long as these titles
are self-contained, they are worth shelling out for. It's just an
extra bit to the story and demos will always be free because
people will always want to know what they are buying first if
they can help it, and this is extremely important with games.
Anyway, back to Devil May Cry, Capcom have said that a new
look Dante is coming back and they've teamed up with the
amazing Ninja Theory team to release it. I'm excited. Are you?
You mean about the game? So did I ... sure ....

Friday, 22 October 2010

Alan Wake: The Writer DLC

After The Signal, Alan Wake returns in The Writer in it's final downloadable content package to clear some stuff up ... or if anything to make it all less confusing.

I don't know what it is with Alan Wake, but when I saw The Writer had been released I got really excited. Seeing as I thought the main game was average, these new chapters seem to appeal to me more and I don't know why. Instead of doing the same thing again and again one after the other, after a break the return to the gameplay and story feels like a strange 'coming home' of sorts. Except this is one strange home.

Alan is progressing through his memories more and we see the blurred line between the conscious and the subconscious. Forums are going wild for what this all means, who Mr. Scratch is and trying to assemble a linear narrative for it all but essentially they're missing out on something painfully obvious in this metaphysical nightmare. It's completely self-aware. It knows that the player is engrossing himself in this world and yet forgetting that essentially, none of this exists, that perhaps YOU are Mr. Scratch, playing with this character, controlling him. You think you're Alan, even though you're obviously not Alan - something the story keeps telling you. It's a smart, clever, post-post-modern way of looking at gaming that is different from films or a book. Films, books, TV programmes are PASSIVE, what Alan Wake draws attention to is the fact that you are the protagonist, that it is YOU deciding what happens, how far you want to take this etc. that you are interacting with this and as much as your character isn't Alan Wake, neither are you.

It's this jumbled up complexities that has put off a lot of reviewers, but what they don't understand is that this is quite a bold, enjoyable gameplay experience. In fact, this DLC chapter is one of my favourite chapters of the whole Alan Wake saga, perhaps my most favourite, because we are completely in the darkness. This is a horrible, strange nightmare where his dark memories are brought up, where the cabins turn around and around, where his house becomes some weird folding Inception style maze, where boats float through the sky and all the while making it fun to play. You can read so much into this if you want to that it could drive you mad, or you could just simply choose to play the game and still enjoy it. Luckily, it caters for both. It might be about an hour or two long, but it's enough to keep those fellow Wakers happy.

Story wise, Alan is just trying to get out of this nightmare with Thomas lending a hand, but at the same time confusing things further. The story is brought to a conclusion somewhat but essentially setting it up for a sequel, one which looks like he must try and write himself back to reality. It's an interesting concept of what is real, what isn't real and the idea of existing. Why are we watching someone trying to create a story where he can get back to the real world, when this isn't the real world anyway? Alan Wake is clearly a troubled man and I'm actually looking forward to seeing where it goes, I'm just not hoping for much of a conclusion.

DLC Rating: 8/10

Paranormal Activity 2

Surfing on the popularity of the first one, this sequel - but actually this prequel - to the events of the first one tries it's best to deliver the same scares with lame results.

For those who have not yet seen the first Paranormal Activity, you're missing a real treat. Released in 2007 the film was shown around festival circuits to great acclaim, the cast was essentially two people, it was shot in the directors house and used very simple techniques to great effect. In fact, I would go as far as saying it's really a masterclass in film-making.

This might seem far-fetched but it's so clever in it's execution that any budding auteur ought to take note. Firstly, the narrative is simple and the 'monster' is really a metaphor for the relationship between Micah and Katie. The film also relies on your imagination to create fear, you're actually subconsciously interacting with the film, it's framing makes you look in places that you wouldn't normally find interesting, in fact you're looking for something in the shadows. It's open doors invokes a Hopper-esque sense of desperation and mystery with the depth of the image playing an important part in creating the tension. That's the real killer, the tension, there's more tension than anything Hitchcock could have done, and I don't say this lightly. You know watching every diary insert that you're about to see something and it's gradual development from an opening door, a light switching on to a more violent intrusive force makes every night shot more and more unbearable. It plays on the post-9/11 paranoia and terrorism-at-home American sensibility (which in fact is joked about in the sequel). Not only all this, but the sound, the simple effects and the 'possession' (a brainwashing of sorts) all create this horrible yet thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes of the fear of the unknown and no matter what anyone says, if you're at home by yourself at night you can freak yourself out by just thinking about it.

However, once Spielberg got a hold of it and wanted to release it internationally, he wanted to do different scenes and a different ending. Therefore, if you went to see this on the cinema or saw this on DVD recently, chances are it's Spielberg's monster that you saw. I would thoroughly recommend viewing the original, or at least watching the different endings on YouTube because the original ending is a million times better. Anyhow, it's the re-released 2009 version that this prequel draws from, which is important.

This might sound like a long-winded approach to dealing with the second film, but it's very important to make people aware of these issues because the problem with the second one is that it recreates, to a much less effect, almost exactly the same as what happens in the first one. The deal is Katie's sister has just had a baby boy with her new family she's married into, after a while things start going bump in the night as the monster tries to claim baby Hunter.

The problem is (and here's a SPOILER if you haven't seen the first one) you know you're not going to see the monster harassing them because of the first one. So every noise, every opening and shutting door is just stuff that you've seen before so you don't find it scary, instead you're waiting for the more hardcore stuff. However, all this ghoulish foreplay takes up about 70 minutes of the 90 minute film and there is a LOT of watching nothing, but you're watching it knowing not to look out for anything because you know you won't see anything. The idea of the baby being harassed yet guarded by a brave dog is a good one that doesn't get interesting until near the end and, unlike the original first one (not the remake), they get hassled during the daytime and the night-time. But it's everything we've seen before, dragging them away, opening doors and a ridiculous pool cleaner that keeps turning up outside of the pool (a machine not a man). However, there's something going on in the basement which I thought could turn into something interesting but instead becomes a REC wannabe that wasn't scary at all. Katie's sister becomes possessed and she is completely lame and the whole thing lacks all the originality, all the fear, tension and mystery that the first one thrived on. In fact, it was what made the first one any good, so if you take that away you're just watching people doing nothing and getting scared about tiny things.

The company have also not released the details of the cast which is trying to keep to the 'real' element of the first one (when it obviously cannot be real) as we know full well, with enough interviews, promotions etc. that it wasn't real. Why try and recreate the Blair Witch effect the first one had? 'Found footage'. We're not idiots! Who would actually think this was real? The girl was in 24 for God's sake.

During the film they try to create more of a backstory and a 'why' to all the attacks but I don't want to know why. The whole point is it could happen potentially to anyone and even though the first one made it clear this stuff had happened to Katie before, that's all I needed to know, I don't want to know all the details of their family tree, of deals with the devil or whatever, MYSTERY remember? When it coincides with the first film it is completely crap and the ending made me want to throw something at the screen. It took everything that made the first one great and shat on it, in fact it might have potentially corrupted the experience of the first one for me by being so shit. I'll never want to watch this again, in fact I'm really angry about it.

Overall, there were a few good 'scares' and when I say a few, I mean like 2. But if you liked the first one and you want to run the risk that watching this could ruin the first film for you, then go ahead, but I thoroughly recommend you leave this film alone. However, if you haven't seen the first one and you want to check this out you might find it more enjoyable than I, so keeping that in mind I have to give it an extra mark as this could be a new experience for you; but I just cannot get away from the fact that Hollywood has again tried to suck something dry until it tastes rotten. Thank you Spielberg for fucking up another good film memory. Dickhead.

Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Medal Of Honor

As people are gearing up for Call Of Duty: Black Ops, Medal of Honor (or Honour depending if you've become completely AmericaniZed or not) tries it's hand at pulling in the Modern Warfare fanbase with it's own take on the current war in the Middle East. Can it rise to the pinnacle of FPS war games that it once held? Or is it still stuck in the past?

Do people remember the original Medal Of Honour games? I remember them with such fond rose-tinted glasses but somewhere along the line it lost it's way. It became preoccupied with just having people move and shoot, move and shoot, rather than giving it some story and the multiplayer went from reasonable to dreadful pretty rapidly. As Medal Of Honour declined, Call Of Duty rose in it's place, once considered the lesser of war FPS's there isn't a soul out there that hasn't heard of it. Where did Medal Of Honour go wrong? Well whatever they did, EA have decided to come back guns-a-blazing and basically copy Call of Duty's Modern Warfare series by bringing everything up to date.

Medal Of Honour takes place in the Middle East where you're basically set missions. It's all American and your mates are called Mother, Preacher and whatever. You play different roles as you jump from one angle of the mission to another but to be honest, I had absolutely no idea what the whole plotline was about. Something about a stupid General giving out crap orders while you're trying to save your own men; this camaraderie anti-authoritarian standpoint seems to be a constant issue in these games. In the sense that, war isn't about politics, in the end it's about the soldiers and they don't WANT to get involved in these fights but they have to, that in games like this you are trying your best just to make it out alive. It's as if they are standing apart from the issues of it all but doing their bit nonetheless - and my God this is trying to be dramatic. The end sequence is a plate of stilton wafting up my nose like nerve gas.

So the story isn't much, but the gameplay must be good right? Well, in a way. There's a lot of helping each other up and waiting for your comrades, which grates after a while and so many niggling points that you can't help but feel it was slightly rushed to get out before Call of Duty. Little points are that sometimes, the enemies will keep coming, which is fine but is a little old hat now, that if you run out of ammo you can ask someone else for it, which is a good point, but you have to equip the right gun which makes it fiddly and sometimes it won't register, an annoying bug if ever I saw one. Other points are there is no RPG action or anything like that, they try some variety by making you shoot from a helicopter, do some hardcore sniping, some stealth action, quad biking, but really it all feels forced and linear. You won't have trouble doing this on the hardest difficulty setting either, the only times I died was through impatience. But then, another annoying aspect is that it can go from being shot to dead very quickly without immediately running for cover. This 'realistic' approach works in a way, but really it's just annoying.

What I loved about Call of Duty is not only the story but the stand-out scenarios and sequences, something that Medal of Honor tries to recreate but in a vain attempt. The cut scenes with you nearing death seem to be quite frequent, to the point where it loses it's emphasis but there are some stand out bits that I really enjoyed. Namely, trying to survive an onslaught in a tiny house in the middle of the desert was amazing, the ambush on your drop-off point and the cut scene where you're in a crashing aircraft were all bloody cool, but really that was it. You also have to have the volume turned up quite loud in order to hear what your team-mates are saying because, annoyingly, they will constantly be telling you what to do. Rarely do you use your second weapon, or even grenades and the entire game was stupidly short. I think I completed it in about 4-5 hours, if that.

So the Campaign aspect wasn't great, but visually it looked incredible, it seems like EA have put style over content so that everything looks incredible rather than concentrating on the stuff that matters - it's the equivalent of a multi-million Hollywood blockbuster that looks amazing but feels as empty as a balloon. So what about the other aspects?

The normal multiplayer game is basically an almost carbon copy of Battlefield but what I hate about it, is that unlike Call of Duty where with enough skill you can still progress and have fun, Medal Of Honor needs you to have a good gun and know where all the good hiding points are. It's basically a sniper's paradise, problem being the learning curve is so steep it'll put a lot of people off. Gamers could argue this that it's worth investing in, that levelling up isn't as tough, but it's seriously not that fun and definitely not as fun as Call of Duty's multiplayer options. I didn't do too badly either, being an FPS master of sorts, but there were too many times where I would just go round a corner and I'm dead or even more annoyingly, I would see someone, shoot them straight for ages, and then he'll shoot me once and I'm dead. It's enough to sling your control to the floor.

The other extra option they have is Tier 1 - a stupid timed way of completing the game that you have to be signed into Xbox Live to do, being on a home network means sometimes my internet can cut out if someone else is using a computer for instance, so just when I'm about to complete a level under par time? I get disconnected and the game quits. All that work for nothing. Fuck. That. That will definitely be the first and last time I play that, and it's really only for completists to show off, definitely not for the casual gamer. EA have also done this thing where you need a VIP pass in order to access some of the online features, so if you bought your game second hand, you won't be able to use the code as it can only be used once. What a stupid idea.

Overall, this has to be the biggest disappointment of the year so far. I enjoyed playing through the short campaign, but the Tier 1 thing is pointless and the multiplayer flawed. It's definitely just a stop gap for a couple of weeks until Call of Duty Black Ops. Play it for something to do, but don't get your hopes up.

Rating: 6/10

Kings Of Leon - Come Around Sundown

The Southern boys are back with their latest album; but with reviews already coming back negative, should they start thinking about their next step?

It's taken me a while to review this album. Mainly because when I first listened to it a few weeks ago, I thought it was abysmal and that maybe it was a grower. Now, after listening to it a few times and allowing it to grow I can safely say it's pretty shit.

My main issue with Kings of Leon is that, without bragging, I was there at the beginning. When I first got their EP Holy Roller Novocaine about 7 years ago or so (with tracks arguably better on that than on their debut album), I thought I had found the perfect mix of rock, country and blues. Not only that, but the band looked fucking cool. Now a lot of people have said they have sold out and my main issue with that is that, they were never really underground, Youth & Young Manhood got a LOT of TV advertisements which I always feel is a sign of selling out, and this was before they even had that much of a cult following. However, everything about that first album was incredible, the look, the sound, the feel, the lyrics, everything. Unfortunately as time has advanced, their original sound has been diluted to the point where it stands up unrecognisable to the edgy, hip band they used to be.

I'd also argue that a lot of these reviewers don't know what they are talking about. Stuff I've read says they have finally released a stadium album, one reviewer even suggesting Bono will be giving them a call soon. What these idiots don't bother to research is that Kings of Leon toured with U2 back in 2005, they were already playing sell-out stadiums just after Aha Shake Heartbreak. It was after this that the band decided they'd start writing stadium filler songs for that more epic sound, which was the real beginning of their self-destruction. Therefore, you could even blame the crapness of Kings of Leon now on Bono if you so wished, and that the result was Because Of The Times. Reverb, delay, echo, big choruses - all the classic subtleties of stadium rock. However, at least with each album there has been a few tracks that I liked. I mean, let's be honest, Aha Shake Heartbreak wasn't that bad, it was already pointing towards a wish to shake off their indie image and become mainstream but it was still good. I suppose it's a shame that by this point they look like they've just stepped out of River Island rather than a blues bar, but I guess they have to pretty themselves up a bit, even if it means losing their cool image that the boys liked. At least the music will stay the same? If only.

I could perhaps deal with Because Of The Times because it might have sounded less rough, but it felt like they were still hanging on to this whole wish to still be dirty rockers with some swagger. Once again, instead of an entire album I like, the amount of songs I enjoy dwindle with each album. By the time Only By The Night comes around, and namely Sex On Fire, I can't really even listen to it, it's like they have given up. Indeed Caleb makes it clear he always hated Sex On Fire. In fact, he is renowned for being like a sulky teenager and I would imagine that he consciously knows that he's lost his cool, young crowd to the family-friendly stadium sound - a rock gig the whole gang can enjoy and it's 'cool' still right? Well, no. People forget that Kings of Leon never took off in the States like they did here, and really they are arguably more famous here than anywhere in the world and perhaps it's this wish to be accepted that drives these radio friendly unit shifters.

So we come to Come Around Sundown, an album that was promised to be 'dirtier' and 'grungier' than previous ones, once again to make sure their original fanbase holding out hope will still buy their album and that their new crowd will think they are getting something edgier than normal. But this is rock that 13 year old girls listen to and I'm sorry, but if you like this album go into your sister's room, find a pretty dress and dance around in front of a poster of Caleb because you're no longer a man. Reviewers use words such as 'soft', 'emotive', 'shimmering', 'moody' but it's all just a wanky way of saying something is shit, without saying it's shit.

If you haven't got the album, let's start by saying it begins with 'The End' and to be fair, it's something that could have easily been on the last album. It's a swirly, slow song with Editors style fast picking in the background that lends it a bit of edge it so obviously needed - "I ain't got a home" Caleb sings - I doubt it, you've sold a million albums. I feel so heartbroken for his rock and roll lifestyle and how hard it must be to deal with fame. Get over yourself you bloody idiot.

Next up is single 'Radioactive' - if anyone has seen the video then you'll know it is the biggest piece of egotistical crap I've ever seen. Youtube it, but they are playing with a group of black kids as if they are one with the 'people' or on Comic Relief and then the kids act like a chorus line by clapping along with it. Wank. I don't mind the verses on this so much though, it's only when it launches into that singalong chorus that you can feel they're sitting there writing it going - "Yeah ok, so when we hit into it, we want big BOOOOM like fireworks on the stage and WHOOOSH lights sweeping everywhere and then, you know, it's REALLY LOUD and .... and ... let's have a chorus line on the stage! Yeah! Big bright white lights on us all! Then BAM BAM BAM lights flickering everywhere as the song ends." - The record exec sits back - 'It's a hit. I love it. Now let's put some happy black singing kids in the video.' 'That's the dealbreaker.'

A lot of people have come back to me saying Pyro is one of the more exceptional tracks on the album. It's not. It's only because it's got a memorable chorus, much like the rest of the album it's full of oooh's and aaaaaah's, lazy songwriting if ever I've seen it. You compare this to even Because Of The Times and you can already see a noticeable difference in songwriting. It's like they haven't even bothered to try.

Next track Mary might as well sit next to some crap mid-90's average rock band that wouldn't even be bothering the top ten. The wanky solo in the middle doesn't help either and the song is nothing but a bore to listen to - it's just been so over-produced and slick that I can't believe Angelo Petraglia hasn't put a stop to it already unless he's using them as an excuse to do as much production experimenting as possible. It doesn't let up with it's cringe-worthy, slack playing in The Face that is immediately forgettable and hardly worth mentioning.

The Immortals once again kicks in with big huge choruses which could have easily been any other track on the album, it's ridiculous. Next track Back Down South was a bit of a surprise, the reason being is that you can see it at a country gig and it's less forced and more natural feel makes it more authentic. I wouldn't mind if Kings of Leon went more in this direction with some bottleneck guitar, subtle drumming, soft harmonies and indeed went 'back down south' because recording in New York is clearly doing them no favours in terms of respect. Beach Side is a fitting accompaniment to the holiday brochure album cover but again there's no recognisable hook, nothing to distinguish it and set it apart from the rest of the album which is a shame because I think with a bit more work, this song could have worked out quite well.

No Money at least is a bit faster than the rest of the tracks but once again follows their formula of opening riff, turn instruments down a bit for the singing, then turn them back up for the chorus with some oohs and ahhhs and at end the song drive the point (or riff) home. Pony Up makes me yawn with a sound like it has been written by a Kings Of Leon wannabe band rather than the authentic thing, what the hell is that guitar riff anyway? It's awful. Birthday takes it one step further by having some of the worst lyrics ever that I can't even bring myself to write here and it sounds like an afterthought song, just more filler between what they will release as singles.

Mi Amigo is a complete joke and you could probably fall asleep listening to this song. Who is actually listening to this stuff anymore? Maybe final song Pick-up Truck can make up for it perhaps? No. It's a boring, lazy, over-produced piece of shit that can pick-up and piss off as far as I'm concerned. As soon as the album finished I quickly ran through my iPod and made a playlist of my old favourite Kings tracks and calmed back down, maybe they'll return to their old best? Well, even if they don't at least they left some good tracks before they went completely up their own arses.

Maybe if Caleb is so ungrateful of all his fame, he'd either leave Kings of Leon to do something else, or just kill himself. Pity he couldn't have done it a bit earlier on in either case. If anything, at least this album can be a test if someone is cool or not.

'Did you like Kings Of Leon's Come Around Sundown?'
'Yeah I loved it!'
'See ya.'

Come Around Sundown? Just don't come around here.

Rating: 3/10


Bruce Willis heads up an interesting cast in this comic book adaptation about a group of retired CIA agents who are wanted by ... the CIA. Is it time to put this in a home and leave it to die? Short answer - yes.

Director Robert Schwentke has had a very strange career up to this film. His real break into Hollywood was directing Jodie Foster in the massively average Flightplan and then the ludicrously disgusting The Time Traveller's Wife (which was poorer than the book, if you can imagine such a thing) and now from thriller (if you can call Flightplan a thriller), to drama, to comic book action. I've not seen his first German feature Tattoo which is supposed to be a slightly gory horror neither his follow-up comedy The Family Jewels, but either Schwentke doesn't want to be pigeon-holed, or he can't settle on a genre, or maybe he just doesn't really know what he is any good at. Well let's just say, it ain't this.

Bruce Willis is in retirement getting his kicks by borderline stalking a young woman who is in charge of sending him his cheques (I say young, it's actually played by Weeds Mary-Louise Parker who is actually 46 and looks amazing for it), some agents try and kill him and so he goes on a quest to find out why. The actual plot is ridiculous, I still don't really get the whole picture, something about a cover-up of some mission that has something to do with the Vice President, it's all complete nonsense and the way the characters are introduced is completely lame. Bruce Willis is actually good as his usual cocky yet genuine action hero who oozes charisma, he has aged remarkably well and Parker does a good job as the fish-out-of-water act, in fact you could say the whole film is just her fantasy what with her obsession with romantic pulp novels.

In terms of the rest of the cast, Helen Mirren as a posh British assassin is boring and completely vanilla, the only time she stands out is shooting a massive gun at some cars in an end sequence that is the most long-winded and stupid way of trying to kidnap the Vice President. Who came up with this plan? These guys were CIA? Morgan Freeman who I think could possibly be one of the most overrated black actors ever, apart from maybe Denzel Washington, is a lame duck and the last time we see him can't come soon enough in a rather forgettable fashion. No-one talks about him afterwards thank God. Richard Dreyfuss is some kind of rich businessman behind it all or something, I don't know because I stopped paying attention, but the only real interesting characters were John Malkovich's paranoid schizo (originally to be played by John C Reilly - which would have been terrible), Brian Cox as a suave Russian ex-spy and Karl Urban as the young agent trying to chase them down. Clearly the whole cast had fun shooting the whole thing and this comes across as you watch the movie, but it's a complete disappointment.

The action is okay with the best bits in the trailer and they've tried to flesh out the characters a bit but it doesn't work, instead I thought it was a 'shoot-now-ask-questions-later' scenario where they were never really taking anything seriously. So the novelty of old killers is fun for about 45 minutes, but after that it's hard to keep interested. What with such terrible comic adaptations sprouting up where studios are trying to cash in on the comic buck as soon as possible rather than letting a script evolve for a while, you get fodder like The Losers and remakes of films only recently been made (Hulk/Spiderman/Superman) and unfortunately films like Red.

Retired Extremely Dangerous? More like Really Excruciatingly Disappointing.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 15 October 2010

Dead Rising 2

Where killing zombies has never been so fun! Romero's "Dawn Of The Dead" was the inspiration behind the first in this series, but does the second deliver even more or is it an (un)dead series already?

I had got only about halfway through the first Dead Rising but I did remember enjoying it, but loading this game up I was questioning why I never finished it. I'd loved the swarms of zombies everywhere, taking pictures, the little strange missions etc. and then once I started playing the second one, it started to dawn on me why I had quit; and unfortunately the same problems remain.

Let's start at the beginning, Dead Rising was about a journalist caught in the middle of a zombie outbreak and they had taken refuge in a mall. This sequel is a few years later, where zombies are somewhat controlled and they've even created a game called Terror Is Reality which is essentially Gladiators with zombies. Your character is Chuck, one of the regular contestants on the gameshow and as like every zombie movie, it all goes wrong and Chuck has been framed for the outbreak. You soon have to clear your name before the military arrive while looking after your daughter by injecting her with Zombrex every 24 hours and trying to save as many people as possible.

There were many reasons why I gave up on the first game. Namely, when saving survivors you had to escort them for aaaaaages to the safe house and they would often be completely beaten up by zombies and when trying to save them, you often did more damage than the zombies. Fortunately, the survivors are a lot more hardcore this time and will keep up with you which is a massive improvement, however the escorting back to the safe house is often a huge ball ache and the loading times between different areas take soooo loooong. The next huge irritant is the saving system, you can only save your games in restrooms across the mall which means if you venture too far, or come up against a boss, you have to fight your way again through hoardes of zombies to get back to where you need to go, so if it's a tough level and you're restarting from the restroom again, you'll be likely to throw your console out the window. Why not just do checkpoints? Or restart from the beginning of the boss battle?

There's also the fact that this takes place in a mall. It's been done in the first game, why do it again? There's not many new unique ideas here, it really is Dead Rising 2 or rather it should be called Dead Rising: Fortune City seeing as it's pretty much exactly the same as the first game. There's not even the photo option which I quite enjoyed first time round, but instead you can combine weapons to a staggering degree. This might seem cool, but really unless the items are on the way you're just not bothered enough to go out of your way to do it. You don't even know where to find them unless you look it up online, the same with finding the Zombrex, there are missions to get the drug but they say you can find them in the game, unless you know where to look you'll never find it. If you want to buy anything, you have to have a fair bit of money and unless you play online (I'll come to that later) I don't know how you would raise enough.

Graphics wise, it looks OK, but is typically Capcom who really need to up their game. Reading dialogue on screen? This is next-gen gaming not PS1 time. The characters and acting are so OTT that it really does lose it's true horror essence to become more of a fun weird distraction, typically Japanese who I'd argue are losing their way. Gameplay wise, it's not very good either. The 'moves' that Chuck acquires are almost useless as you really need a weapon, and when you use a weapon or have a drink, that short animation takes so long that you can easily get attacked. Same with putting on clothes, or even looking at your mission list, if you take too long chances are you run the risk of dying. There's also not much of a learning curve. Simple fact is the higher your level during the game, the easier everything is, which means that the enemies are arguably the same difficulty but you'll die a lot easier earlier on, which is frustrating. The endings were also quite average and after checking them all out on YouTube I'd say the depressing ones worked the best, I'd recommend checking them out after you complete the game.

The missions are OK, the psychos are reasonably psychotic and the plot works well, but this is such a flawed game that a lot of the time it was more a chore to complete rather than fun. Completists might say there's a lot more to do and I'm missing a lot, such as being able to open the car, the different costumes, the weird weapons, getting to level 50, but come on - a game shouldn't be reliant on this.

Online, the game works quite well. Co-op means you can join someone's game randomly and your character will level up there so you can take your stronger Chuck and put him back into your own single player campaign which is a nice touch. The real treat however is Terror Is Reality, the gameshow Chuck is on, where you get to do the events yourselves (4 of 9 I believe each time) and I spent a lot of time on this for fun and also to win money to use in the single player game, meaning buying Zombrex was never an issue.

Overall, the game was somewhat entertaining but it felt like no-one had gone over the details and it shows how much a thorough games testing is needed before putting games like this on the market. The saving is ridiculous, some of the fighting is stupid and unreliable, escorting survivors is a chore and the reading messages or dialogue rather than speech is a joke. Capcom had a long time to make something great here, but really they've just rehashed their old game and tried to make it look a bit more funny with it's costumes and weird weapons, clever, but we're not 12. Online gives it an extra point but I'd say this is a rental at best, not worth going out of your way for.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Social Network

The Social Network aka The History of Facebook might be an interesting story, but is it really worthy of a Hollywood feature? Or better yet, a David Fincher feature?

Unless you've been a Chilean miner for the last five years, you might not have heard of Facebook, a social networking site that has spawned the term 'The Facebook Generation', which for a lot of the people who read this is you and me. What makes this film interesting is really it's a character piece about success rather than a boring sequence of events.

Jesse Eisenberg plays founder Mark Zuckerberg as we watch him get dumped by his girlfriend and start turning on the female community of Harvard. Soon we see how the idea of 'exclusivity' gets planted in his head by three Phoenix club members, a club that is extremely prestigious and something that fills Zuckerberg with envy when his best friend Eduardo starts getting accepted into. But then, this is the real story at the heart of it - how can anyone completely screw over their best friend?

But then there is two sides to the tale, there's no doubt that Zuckerberg's Facebook is completely his own creation and passion and that people like Eduardo feel they are entitled to something when really, they couldn't keep up to the genius of it's founder. However, it's like putting a price tag on any relationship, how far will you isolate yourself to become successful, and for Zuckerberg it's all the way. Eisenberg does a good job portraying an ironically socially retarded individual who seems to be battling himself in a subtle way, but really the guy's just a selfish nerd. The real stand-outs for me were Armie Hammer playing a set of jock twins, who I found to be not only the comic relief, but the more interesting characters and, annoyingly, fellow Epsom 1983 boy (I'm from Epsom in case no-one knew) Andrew Garfield, who is also set to be the next Spiderman. I don't really like the guy but I can't fault that he does a remarkable job as a man hurt by just not being good enough for Zuckerberg's standards.

For some, this will be the first time they see Justin Timberlake act and his portrayal of Napster founder Sean Parker grates with me. His boyish voice and looks makes Sean Parker look like a hip teenager rather than the ugly yet insightful businessman he truly is, and I just think it should have been played by someone with more gravitas. It's not that he does it badly, but I don't think it's right.

Overall, there is nothing gained from this film that I could not have read in an article. There might not be the emotional impact, but then Zuckerberg feels for the most part emotionally detached and it's only when the film comes full circle, a man scorned, as he sits looking at his ex's Facebook profile picture that it becomes clear he never intended for it all to end the way it did but that in some strange way, it's the only way he can reach out to others. There's no clever directing here or 'signature' styles that would make this a Fincher film, the boat race is quite stylised and the lighting is typically moody Fincher, but really unless someone tells you, you would never guess. The whole thing kind of shoots and writes itself, I can't help but think it's more a case of tagging along with the Facebook hype for the Hollywood studios to get more money rather than a 'Shakespearean' tale that needs to be told. Some geek thought up a great idea, made 90 billion bucks and then people wanted his money. Sure there are some good moments, some funny moments, some dramatic moments and I was entertained but, sometimes I don't need pictures to tell me a story.

There's also no reason for you to go to the cinema to see this film, it's a DVD rental at best and I can't believe you'd want to buy it unless you're a Timberlake fan or you just really love Facebook. It's interesting but it also feels too soon, maybe ten or twenty years later I might enjoy it more for nostalgia's sake, but it's still relatively new and feels weird watching how it came about knowing this wasn't that long ago. Go see it if there's nothing else on, but I can't help but think it's a high-class Crimewatch reconstruction shoot with a bit more narrative. If you already know the history of Facebook, don't bother. Well acted, well shot, but forgettable.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Enslaved: Odyssey To The West

From the mind of Alex Garland and Andy Serkis comes a new take on an ancient tale. But is it an odyssey worth taking?

Ninja Theory made one of the best PS3 titles ever in my opinion, Heavenly Sword. For such an early title, it mixed up some cutting edge graphics, engaging story and some great gameplay and luckily, Enslaved ticks the same boxes but just not as well.

Enslaved follows the exploits of Trip and Monkey as they try to get Trip back home, but that's just the beginning. She has enslaved Monkey to do her bidding using the same technology the 'mechs' use for other humans to help her out, and if she dies, you die.

The graphics again look quite remarkable, yet for some reason aren't quite as cutting-edge as I was expecting. Sometimes, it looks glamorous yet at other times all the greenery makes it look rather boring. The gameplay is varied and fun, but sometimes it felt like a poor man's Uncharted with all the jumping around - generally if you press up and jump, you'll get to wherever you need to go. The fighting works and isn't the button bashing Heavenly Sword was, it takes a bit more skill and really, it's the only time you'll die if ever. But that's the main issue - it's just too easy at times.

The characters are well fleshed out and Andy Serkis as director definitely helps the motion-capturing to give a realistic fluidity to not only the cutscenes but the in-game engine. The dynamics work well yet the frustrating platform nature of the game can get a bit much, when you want to jump off onto a tiny platform knowing you can't then you realise when you do jump off a platform, it's definitely the way you need to go, making it very linear. The only times you go off-track are to collect tech orbs which are dotted around so that you can upgrade, or collect a 'mask' that shows a weird piece of the past (our present day with Andy Serkis hanging around), but really it's not worth getting too obsessed about unless you want to unlock achievements.

There's some chase scenes on a 'cloud' (like a hoverboard from Back To The Future II) which isn't used nearly enough and really, you don't get to kill enough mechs. It's definitely more of a platform piece with the odd puzzle and action scene thrown in making it a decent all round game. However, I just found it a little boring at times, and I just wasn't that bothered about the story, it didn't quite delve enough into the setting and really not even that much into the characters themselves. I don't know the original Chinese story, (yes THAT Monkey) but this plays out more like a road movie and essentially that's what it is. I felt like it only touched upon something that could have been so much more. The end might have been somewhat satisfying and suddenly quite strange, but I would have liked there to have been more of a plot rather than just getting from A to B all the time.

Overall, it's a solid game with some decent gameplay and enough to keep you sated for a weekend, but once it's completed you won't return to it. A nice little break from the boring 9 to 5, but this won't be something you'll have to tell your mates about. If you've got nothing else to do, give it a go, but there's going to be better games coming up so maybe hold on for a bit longer if you're short on cash.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


What started off as a mere trailer for the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse experience has now been made into a full feature. But will it follow the same fate as Grindhouse or have mistakes been learnt?

For those who watched Planet Terror/Death Proof, I think everyone would agree that Rodriguez's Planet Terror was the better half. For all the coolness of Tarantino, his Death Proof was just boring and it seemed like a stale homage rather than a good film in it's own right. Okay, the last fifteen minutes or so were pretty good but still it was Planet Terror that really encapsulated the raw, amateur, visceral grindhouse feel. It was stupid, silly and yet thoroughly entertaining. Fortunately enough, Machete follows this same path and comes up trumps.

Firstly, no-one can fault the cast, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan, Don Johnson, Jeff Fahey (the pilot from Lost), fan fave Cheech Marin and of course, Machete himself, Danny Trejo. People might argue that Seagal, Lohan etc. aren't deserving enough to be in a picture like this, but it's only in a film like this where they can really shine, it's all OTT and as long as you're willing to give anything a go, you can't go wrong. Danny Trejo isn't the best actor in the world and luckily, he doesn't have to be. Machete hardly says a word, but generally grunts, fucks and slices his way from scene to scene without having to worry about any Oscar nominations, after all, films like this make their heroes more of an old-school character, a hyper-real myth (if there is such a thing) rather than a broody Jason Bourne type. It's a living comic book or pulp novel, and everyone involved knows it.

If you don't know the general plot, Machete is a fugitive and gets asked to kill a local politician, but he is double crossed and he wants revenge but behind it all is his arch nemesis - Steven Seagal's Torrez. Along the way comes Alba as an immigration officer, Michelle Rodriguez as a revolutionary and Lohan as an incestuous daughter. But the plot shouldn't mean too much as it is the fucking cool action that really sets this apart, whether it's slicing off heads, using intestines as a rope or just generally blowing stuff up, the ignorant, racist America that this is against is really just in the background for just making stuff look cool.

The film is completely relentless; the cuts, the feel, the one-liners, the story, everything about it places it in that Seventies shit-flick groove, but unfortunately it's the last fifteen minutes or so that let's it down. Once Machete becomes a leader of sorts and there's a big riot, it feels like it's all got a bit too much and the shots from the original trailer feel too forced into the action. This is a great film with some great set pieces, but at the end of the day you know you're watching some cool trashy flick that dries up a bit towards the end, but you can't fault the fact that they've made everything look COOOOOL. So if you like cool films, you'll love this, just remember the only fleshing out of characters you'll see is their guts hanging on the floor.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Town

Ben Affleck does it again with a stellar cast providing what could be one of the grittiest heist films in mainstream cinema. Danny Ocean couldn't charm himself out of this one ...

Killing Zoe, Heat, Point Break, these all have some great heist scenes but I never thought the Daredevil himself Ben Affleck would make anything close to films as good as these. After Gone Baby Gone, Affleck shows that his writing and directing skills aren't just a flash in the pan with what I believe is one of the most impressive films this year so far. Not as amazing as Inception, but still.

The Town follows Affleck's character Doug who is an ex-hockey player who has turned to his father's life of crime. His friend James played by the brilliant Jeremy Renner from Hurt Locker fame is a psychopath whose sister, an impressive Blake Lively, is still in love with Doug. All the while, Doug is trying to get out of the life with his new squeeze he met while robbing a bank by taking her hostage, Rebecca Hall's Claire. Hot on Doug, James and the rest of the gang's tail is FBI agent Jon Hamm who people will better know as my personal hero Don Draper from Mad Men. The casting is incredible and each talented actor brings something unique to the story and seeing Affleck as a tortured, depressed, yet ambitious man battling his inner demons and trying to break loose from The Town is a truly affecting battle. It's very important in films for the setting to be just as essential as the actors, and Boston is clearly portrayed as a violent, beautiful, living breathing city but for everyone there, for good or for bad, it's home.

The action was great, the shoot-outs, heists and general violence was spot on with Renner relishing as his ex-con, nihilistic Boston gangster, if you can call them that. The plot is almost a weird love story splintered between action, fraternal love, criminal politics, detective work, self-respect and family issues. There's a lot going on but never are you overwhelmed, it's a perfect balance with Ben Affleck holding it all together like superglue. The pacing is a little slow at times but that's not it's only problem.

Firstly, there is so much emphasis on the love story in the first half that I'd rather they had spent less time on that and more on his other relationships with his friends and family. Also I can't help but always think 'It's Ben Affleck', he's not exactly renowned for these gritty roles and sometimes it can put me off, which is nothing against his acting, just his Hollywood-J-Lo-marriage-celebrity status. Also, even though the heists are amazing, I just wish they had gone on a bit longer and that Jon Hamm, as a bullying, swearing, alpha-male agent got a bit more screen time. I also wish someone asked his partner about the ending of Lost.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and Ben Affleck might be the next Clint Eastwood in terms of actors creating deep, dark, mesmerising films that are brave and character driven. Unfortunately, it falls just short of being what could have been perfect, it was too long and not snappy enough as it could have been. However, it's an amazing next step for Affleck and I can't wait to see his next venture. Check this film out, you won't be disappointed.

Rating: 8/10