Tag Archive: videogames


Man of Steel Review

In 2006, Warner Bros. and DC decided to reboot Superman (at the same time as tying it in to the original films) with the help of Bryan Singer and Brandon Routh. Despite doing well both critically and commercially (the ninth highest grossing film of that year worldwide) any plans of a sequel were put to rest as the studios bowed down to fans’ criticism of the film. The studios have thrown caution to the wind this time with a sequel already reportedly being worked on and Man of Steel setting the groundwork for Justice League.

“Where do I come from?”

Henry Cavill is Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman, sent to Earth during the destruction of his home planet of Krypton and raised on Earth by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). When what is left of the alien race return to Earth to find Clark and rebuild their own species from scratch, he is forced to choose between his heritage and his new home.

In something that has been given relatively little thought or sight on screen in recent years, Zack Snyder (the director being entrusted with the hopes and dreams of Justice League on his shoulders) plunges the audience right into Krypton’s destruction. The movie opens with some incredible special effects and a great sense of action as Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) come to blows over the future of their planet. Man of Steel sets the bar high for its action sequences with Jor-El and Zod engaging in the first real teaser of the super powered fights that we are anticipating seeing the red and blue of Superman engage in.

“What if a child aspired to something greater?”

On Earth the excitement continues to grow as we follow Clark around in a number of jobs, from fisherman to barman, in which we learn more about the character and his selflessness; he quickly races off to save a crew from a burning oil rig. His adult life is interrupted with trips back to his childhood: Clark saving his class from drowning on a school bus, being bullied for being different, coming to terms with his abilities. You get the impression that you might actually care about this alien. Then Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is introduced and all the groundwork laid so far beings to unravel.

Unfortunately, you can’t really have a Superman movie without featuring Lois Lane in some capacity. And while she may have served a purpose previously as bringing out another human layer to Clark’s character, in Man of Steel she is little more than an annoyance and one of the most pointless characters ever. There was no need for her to be taken aboard the Krypton spaceship, it didn’t seem like Zod had any needs for her to be on board other than so she could learn how to stop them from destroying Clark and Earth.

“Welcome to the Planet”

The character development that started so promisingly disappears when Clark meets Lois. Just two or three meetings later and Lois now knows everything about Clark and the two of them have decided that they are in love. It just feels so underwhelming and undeveloped that you being to question whether some scenes have been cut from the final edit. It’s as if Snyder and David S. Goyer (screenwriter) have decided that because everyone knows Lois and Clark are meant to be together, that’s a good enough reason in itself for it to happen without any seeds being set for a relationship. And the kiss at the end? Cliche and forced. The relationship could have been allowed time to grow and be explored if pointless scenes asking us to care about 2-bit characters who have had 5 minute screen time weren’t shoe horned in.

Despite all this, Man of Steel does offer some moments of relief. The fight scenes are incredible; one on one fights scaling over miles of ground. The enormous difference between humans and Kryptons is there for all to see. Superman’s flight, his heat vision, x-ray vision (underused) and heightened senses are all portrayed wonderfully and the special effects live up to the films early promise.

“I will find him!”

There are good performances all round, Kevin Costner makes a true return to form, providing a really great performance with limited screen time. Cavill, Crowe and Shannon all perform as well as the script allows as well. One of the main criticisms levelled at Man of Steel is the inevitable loss of human life that seems to not affect Superman and this cannot be ignored.

We’re supposed to believe that Superman, of all superheroes, this moral beacon of justice and hope, is okay with charging through petrol stations, diving through skyscrapers and pummeling his way around a small town is doing this and giving no thought to the innocent people inside all these buildings that are going to die because of his actions? I don’t buy that. And when SPOILER Superman does kill someone, he has a few seconds to regret it before being rushed off screen so the end credits can take his place.

“What do you think?”

Overall, Man of Steel does provide entertainment, that much is certain. The special effects and big budget moments are really worth seeing. But it adds nothing new to Superman that hasn’t been seen before, leaving the unanswerable question: what was the point? Cavill has the potential to be the best Superman ever, but he needs a good script and brilliant story in the sequel to attain this.

My Rating: 6/10.

UK Release Date: 13th December 2013

Stars: Peter Jackson (director), Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Cate Blanchett, Evangeline Lilly, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Stephen Fry

Plot: The Dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf have successfully escaped the Misty Mountains, and Bilbo has gained the One Ring. They all continue their journey to get their gold back from the Dragon, Smaug.

The new Middle Earth trilogy began last year with An Unexpected Journey which, in my opinion, came nowhere close to touching the Lord of the Rings films and could have been a lot better, the slow pace at which events unravelled being the most alarming concern. However, it built a nice platform for the next films to advance on.

With this trailer it certainly looks as though things will be a bit more action heavy and faster paced. We get glimpses of fight scenes, the reappearance of Legolas and completely new character Tauriel (although how much fans of the source material will like her remains to be seen) and we’re also treated (or not) to seeing pretty much every character in the film jumping.

I think I do watch this trailer with a lot of cynicism, I felt hugely let down when watching An Unexpected Journey because it was so far apart from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The CGI here used for Smaug as well does not look as good as it should do in this kind of big budget movie.

I hope that upon release I am proved wrong and that Smaug looks great and the film will be exciting and action packed! It probably says a lot for this trailer that the most exciting thing, for me, was the return of Orland Bloom. And when that’s exciting, you know things are bad.

Killer Joe (2011) Review

McConaisance: when an actor famous for being the butt of many a jokes due to the nature of his films decides, for some unbeknownst reason, to season his career with incredibly serious roles…and actually does it well. Back in 2011, this is exactly what Matthew McConaughey did: along with The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe helped transform McConaughey’s career in a matter of months and left audiences completely bewildered at the ‘new’ actor.

“If you insult me again, I will cut your face off and wear it over my own. Do you understand?”

When Chris (Emile Hirsch) has his stash of drugs stolen by his own mother, he concocts a plan with his father, Ansel (Thomas Haden church) and inconsequently his younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple) to kill his own mother and cash in on her $50,000 life insurance. To do so, Chris gets in contact with ‘Killer’ Joe Cooper (McConaughey), a detective who moonlights as a contract killer. The agreement turns complicated when unexpected events occur and Joe takes a shine to Chris’ younger sister as collateral.

Right from the off, Killer Joe sets itself apart from any other film, introducing quite possibly the most dysfunctional family in the world as Chris is kicked out of his mother’s house and forced to stop with his father and step-mother (Gina Gershon) after, we suspect, beating up his mum. The rain batters down on the ground and sets the mood for the rest of the film. We are quickly rushed into a strip club for a conversation that should probably be happening not in a public place, but this is the second clue that Killer Joe is going to be exciting, different and anything but what you expect.

“This is going to get done, one way or another.”

McConaughey is soon introduced and as soon as he appears he steals the show completely. Long gone is the man who made his career by taking his top off (although he does have a couple of scenes with his torso on show) and making dodgy romantic comedies. He carries the film with so much intensity; no longer a joke but now someone who can genuinely scare you. The character of Joe Cooper is an interesting and complex one and McConaughey brings him to life perfectly, you won’t want to take your eyes off him for a second, even if you don’t agree with everything that he does.

McConaughey is supported by a really fantastic cast who all more than hold their own. Emile Hirsch as a kid with a lot of front but no real guts is great, Thomas Haden Church does a really understated job but Juno Temple is the other star of Killer Joe. As the annoyingly cute and naive Dottie, you really warm to her character as she seems like the innocent victim here when Joe decides that until he gets paid he’s going to be keeping Dottie’s bed warm.

“Why don’t you do us all a big favor and just go kill yourself?”

There are real horrific moments in Killer Joe: it’s an incredibly brutal, morally questionable story but handled so well by director William Friedkin. Some of the scenes are particularly hard to watch from a moral standpoint but the film does a wonderful job of pulling you in that you are willing to be shocked and willing to be, at times, disgusted. At the same time there are jokes planted throughout the script that bring a darkly comic feel to the tone and make you feel guilty for even considering laughing due to the nature of the film.

Killer Joe is adapted from a play and that comes across. There’s a small cast which is often confined to houses and shacks to really constrain the story. All of this is handled with so much intensity, every thing that happens will have your heart pounding. The dialogue is delivered (once again by McConaughey in particular) in a manner that is just so addictive, characters are so interesting that you have no choice once you start watching but to get to the end. And the end is one hell of an ending that will leave you thinking for hours to come.

“Your eyes hurt.”

One of the best films I have ever seen.

My Rating: 10/10.

With the success of Skyfall and Sam Mendes’ direction it appears that the James Bond franchise is now in an enviable position. For the first time in a few years, the director’s chair on the next Bond film is a coveted seat indeed and so far, only A-list directors are being linked to the role. So let’s take a look at the possible candidates…
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SAM MENDES

Bond 23, or Skyfall if you want to call it by it’s proper name, broke into the top ten highest grossing films of all time and was loved by audiences and critics alike. Part of that reason was the direction which was masterfully handed by Sam Mendes. Early reports suggested that Mendes had refused to return for Bond 24 but if you believe what you read, Mendes is right back in the frame and surely should be the first choice.

What to expect if Mendes directs? Brilliant character development and lots of Oscar buzz but no Oscars.
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CHRISTOPHER NOLAN

From Memento right through to The Dark Knight Rises, every one of Nolan’s films has been critically acclaimed. The Dark Knight, under Nolan’s supervision, is arguably the best film of recent years and one of the best of all time. A technically gifted director who puts a great deal of thought into everything he does, if he gets his usual team of Jonathan Nolan and Wally Pfister together again, it could be a masterpiece.

What to expect if Nolan directs? Bond will either be dreaming, a twin or… Michael Caine.
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ANG LEE

Ang Lee hasn’t had it all his own way since he began making films in Hollywood but he does hit more often than he misses. Sam Mendes became the first Oscar winning director to direct a Bond film, how do you top that? Employ a man who has two Oscars. Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi both won Lee the Oscar for Best Director and would no doubt keep Bond at the elevated status Mendes has now given him.

What to expect if Lee directs? A touching love story between Bond and Q.
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NICOLAS WINDING REFN

Perhaps the least recognisable name on this list among mainstream audiences, Refn has had an extremely good few years. Since Pusher Refn has received critical acclaim and his 2011 film Drive became an instant classic and was loved for its character development and theme heavy plot. However, his most recent effort Only God Forgives has divided early audiences with its controversial content.

What to expect is Refn directs? Brutal fight scenes leaving Bond scarred for life on every limb.
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BEN AFFLECK

Affleck has not been linked with the director’s role… until now! Since shifting his focus from acting to directing Affleck has become hot property. Gone Baby Gone, The Town and the Oscar winning Argo have won Affleck a lot of fans, with his oversight for a nomination at the Oscars being one of the most controversial topics surrounding the ceremony this year.

What to expect is Affleck directs? Bond 24 to win Best Motion Picture but Affleck to not even be nominated.
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epic Review

Epic. Never has a summer blockbuster been so ambitiously named. After one of the most exciting and visually astounding trailers of the year so far, anticipations are set high for the latest Blue Sky outing. With a voicing cast including the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Jason Sudeikis, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz and Beyonce Knowles, could the one hour, forty minute journey into the forest live up to the hype of a two minute trailer?

On the one day in a hundred years where Tara (Knowles), Queen of the forest, is set to select her heir an evil group known as the Boggans, led by Mandrake (Waltz) intend to kill her and destroy the forest in order to take complete control. The Leafmen are the group charged with the order of stopping the Boggans but in particular the soldiers that have to carry that weight belong to the incredibly uncharismatic Ronin (Colin Farrell) and rookie Nod (Hutcherson) with the help of a human girl, M.K (Seyfried) who gets shrunk down to two inches tall Alice in Wonderland style in order to save the forest.

No time at all is wasted in introducing the miniature world of the forest and the ongoing battle as three birds tussle in the sky with Nod and the little bird that he rides. Then the real life sized world comes into play with M.K arriving to live with her mad scientist father (Sudeikis) and you get the feeling that there is going to be a strong father-daughter relationship at the centre of this animated war film but when it ends there seems to be a great gaping hole where the human emotion of the film should have been.

It’s a film that lacks any intensity at all. For a film where the whole of the forest seems to be at stake you would expect that there is at least going to be a huge battle at the end but alas, this is not the case. The one time you think you will get to see a huge fight it is cruelly ripped away from you and you are forced to travel with the more boring companions on the quest.

There is a little humour provided in the form of a slug and a snail voiced by Aziz Ansari and the wonderful Chris O’Dowd respectively. And there’s a nice little musical number about halfway through the film in an attempt to lift the film more upbeat from its second act which is certainly lacking any determination at all.

The only thing that comes remotely close to being epic are the brief action sequences. The animation during the fight scenes does stand out as some of the best animation in recent years and the action scenes are full of potential and wouldn’t look out of place in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (although the fact that its animated might make it stick out a little).

There are some laughs, good fight scenes and another great (if underused) turn by Christoph Waltz. You cannot doubt that Epic will find an audience as it is enjoyable at times, but it does feel someone’s followed a dot-to-dot for making a children’s animated film and decided to miss out the dots that contain heart and emotion.

My Rating: 6/10

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

With J.J. Abrams set to direct the new Star Wars film it is as yet unknown whether he will return for the inevitable conclusion to his finely crafted trilogy that has successfully reinstated Star Trek as one of the most important science fiction franchises in the world. Has he left behind a good legacy with Into Darkness?

Star Trek Into Darkness picks up with Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) and his new crew, at least new in this franchise, already on a mission on the pre-civilisation planet of Nibiru; it is clear right from the off that the crew of the USS Enterprise are not going to be without danger as Spock’s life is immediately put on the line. Luckily, he survives and manages to carry on with the rest of the film. Where eventually they run into John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who just so happens to be Star Trek’s arguably most famous villain, Kahn. Kahn is carrying out terrorist acts that turn this film into an emotional chess game between Kirk and Kahn as the two battle it out in a test of will, strength and heroics as they battle to save their respective crews: only one side can win.

“Let’s go get this sonofabitch”

The first thing you notice about Into Darkness (and one of the most significant things) is that it does not feel like a sequel: the film immediately places you at the heart of the action with little knowledge of the previous film (or even Star Trek in general) required to enjoy the film. The whole of the Enterprise crew is back including Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto), Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and none of the characters come off badly with each one, even Chekov (Anton Yelchin) having their moment in the spotlight; it would have been nice to have seen Uhura (Zoe Saldana) do more, however as her character does feel less like an equal crew member and more like a pawn to try and evoke some emotion in Spock, something she doesn’t really do that well.

The old faces are joined by new additions such as the incredible Benedict Cumberbatch and the almost pointless Alice Eve. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Kahn is really spectacular; this is the greatest villain that will hit the screens this summer and is the most memorable in modern blockbusters, as far as my memory serves me anyhow. He poses a serious threat to Kirk and his crew on a mental and physical scale. Right from the off he gives you the creeps and it is clear his plan is very well thought out.

“You should have let me sleep”

The action takes place at a quick pace, occasionally slowing down to give the audience some breathing space and for the characters, mainly Kirk and Spock, to talk their problems through which does sometimes border on the line of good or bad writing; but that can be forgiven as you can guarantee whenever something feels stale Into Darkness shakes things up (quite literally), the amount of times they get attacked off guard id pretty suspicious for a craft of such high technology. But the action scenes are spectacular, right off the bat from Nibiru, to the home of the Klingons on Kronos, right up to the final fight scene between Spock and Kahn.

With such a lot hanging in the balance for Kirk, Spock etc. it seems imperative that there is humour injected into the story and that comes in the, predictable, forms of Bones (Karl Urban) and Scotty. This story centres on Kirk and Kahn but the majority of my attention was on Bones, coming out with quality one liners and throwing around metaphors like they were going out of fashion: he’s a treat every time he comes on screen.

“Damn it man! I’m a doctor not a torpedo technician!”

Into Darkness closes with the USS Enterprise about to embark on a five year mission. Is this five years a hint at how long it will be until we see the third chapter of this Star Trek revival? If so, maybe Abrams will be back on board. Part of me doesn’t want to wait so long but part of me longs for the return of Abrams to finish what he started!

In my Iron Man 3 review I claimed that Iron Man 3 could be the best blockbuster of the summer. Well all that’s changed now: Star Trek Into Darkness will not be topped.

My Rating: 9/10.

It’s not very often that someone comes along and changes the way that films are made. There are rare moments in the modern movie industry where such significant leaps are made to enhance movie viewing. Ray Harryhausen is one of the most famous pioneers of special effects technology ever to grace the industry. Unfortunately, the sad news has been broken today that this pioneer has passed away at the wonderful age of 92.

Ray Harryhausen was a visual effects legend (and that is no less than he deserves) and he pioneered the stop motion movement. He brought stop motion to the big screen; hand crafting and painting his figures and then shooting them frame by frame in a long, tedious process that eventually ended up contributing to some of the most famous films of all time.

Harryhausen’s work can be seen in films such as The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, but his two most famous contributions were to Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, it seems even the incredible CGI advances can’t help make a modern Clash of the Titans better than the stop motion original. Jason and the Argonauts produced some of the best special effects seen at the time: the multiple headed Hydra and the skeleton soldiers rising from the ground to name but two.

Compared to modern special effects Harryhausen’s work does look dated, but his contribution to the movie industry cannot be underestimated and his presence will forever be recognised. He may not have been a director but when the films featured Harryhausen’s animation work, they were HIS films.

This brilliant video puts together all of Ray Harryhausen’s creatures together…

‘The Iceman’ Trailer

UK Release Date: 7th June 2013.

Stars: Ariel Vroman (director), Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, James Franco, Stephen Dorff

Plot: The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.

Fortunately, this isn’t an X-Men spin off in the same vein as Wolverine but about the useless Bobby Drake; it’s very different and much better than that. In a summer that’s going to be packed full of blockbusters like Iron Man 3, Fast & Furious 6, Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness and Pacific Rim, The Iceman is going to be a film that sneaks under the radar.

The Iceman is a thriller that has been well received at film festivals and features a pretty good cast. Other than the fact that Chris Evans looks like the creepiest ice-cream man ever to walk the planet, everything looks great!

Despite being a contract killer, you are clearly going to care about Richard Kuklinski; just from the trailer you can tell this is going to be a great character. I can’t wait to see this one.

While it seems pretty difficult to write about Iron Man Three without giving away some huge spoilers I will do my best.

Iron Man Three sees Shane Black take on directing and writing (along with Drew Pearce) duties for Robert Downey Jr’s third solo outing as Iron Man. We pick up with Tony suffering from post traumatic stress after the events of New York. He has retreated into himself, he can’t sleep, and as such has taken to working more and more on his machines, evidenced by the fact that the one he wears so much in this movie is Mark XLII. However, Stark is thrust back into the limelight and back into action when new threat The Mandarin becomes a serious terrorist threat along with the return of a few people from Stark’s past; Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen who have some secrets of their own. Without his team of super-powered friends, how will Tony Stark fare?

So let’s start with the obvious. Robert Downey Jr is every bit as wonderful as you would expect in the hands on a Shane Black script. The man IS Tony Stark. But Iron Man Three takes stark to a new level, a more personal level. One that’s actually scared for the people he cares about most, one that is suffering internally and doesn’t know how to deal with it. I thought this aspect of Stark’s life made for very interesting viewing and it was good to see that The Avengers didn’t just stop and let Tony go back to normal. It’s great to see that the film makers at Marvel are really nurturing their characters. Stark’s relationships with Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes and Ty Simpkins’ Harley especially provide really great moments of comedy that Downey delivers perfectly.

Rhodey is re-branded as Iron Patriot – a name that Stark less than approves of

There are some incredible set pieces in the film as there have been in the previous two Iron Man films: the cave break-out in Iron Man and the race track fight in Iron Man 2, but Iron Man Three takes things to new heights. The action scenes are just as big, if not bigger, as those in The Avengers. The mansion being blown apart like we’ve seen in the trailers is just an extraordinary scene that really comes from nowhere. There’s a scene where Stark is being held captive and has to break out which provides more great action and the final battle, with so many suits fighting against The Mandarin’s henchmen is really great. It’s refreshing to see Stark take someone on who is not just another man in a suit but poses just as great a threat. This time Stark not only has to use the strength and the powers that his suit gives him but he has to use his intelligence and strategy which is something that has been pushed to the back burner in past films.

Iron Man Three brings lots of surprises to the forefront. There are a lot of moments that seem to just come out of nowhere which makes the effects more dramatic. Pepper Potts has a more vital role in this installment and wasn’t even as annoying or useless as she has been in the past. Guy Pearce excels himself in his role. Seriously, Pearce is absolutely incredible. Him and Ben Kingsley steal every scene in which they are in, it’s just a shame that the two don’t have more on screen time with one another.

It is great to see Iron Man Three tell a story about Tony Stark more than of Iron Man but still keep plenty of suits in sight to keep everyone happy. Marvel’s films are known for having great action as well as big laughs and that’s never been better placed than here in Iron Man Three. There was one tiny little bit I didn’t like but I can’t say because that would ruin a pretty big part of the film.

Tony Stark will be back. Will Robert Downey Jr? We’ve got to hope so!

My Rating: 9/10.

UK Release Date: 13th September 2013

Stars: Ron Howard (director), Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer, Alexandra Maria Lara, Pierfrancesco Favino, Christian McKay.

Plot: A biographical drama of Formula 1 champion driver Niki Lauda and the 1976 crash that almost claimed his life. Mere weeks after the accident, he got behind the wheel to challenge his rival, James Hunt.

Rush looks like it is going to be a wonderful story of two rivals with a lot of respect for one another that will toy with the emotions of audiences all over the world. Although this is basically Niki Lauda’s story, a lot of the publicity so far has come from Chris Hemsworth being involved in a supporting role. This isn’t his fault, he’s become a huge star over the last couple of years, but that may take some of the gloss off the film.

The trailer sets up the story and rivalry brilliantly. It’s not an action packed trailer showing off all the race scenes which it could easily have been to appease action hungry mainstream audiences. Instead Rush plays on the dramatic rivalry between the two incredible racers; this is the best thing to do.

We get a small glimpse of the crash which could have ruined Lauda’s career and expect this to be a central piece of the film as we see Lauda’s recovery and jealousy as Hunt dominates races he enters. It looks as though the two main performances are going to be really strong.

At risk of putting the kiss of death to Rush, this could be an outside bet for a few Oscar nominations next awards season.