Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Drop: DVD Review

The Drop: DVD Review


Rating: M
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Ent

Destined to be known forever as The Sopranos star James Gandolfini's last ever film role,The Drop is a hard-hitting crime drama set on the streets of Brooklyn from Dennis Lehane.

Tom Hardy stars as soft-spoken bartender Bob Saginowski, who works at Cousin Marv's bar (run by Cousin Marv played by James Gandolfini). But the bar is one of a series of bars that operates in the criminal underworld as a "drop bar", where money's funnelled to the local gangsters.

When Cousin Marv's bar is robbed, the ensuing investigation and twists - as well as the complications caused by picking up a pitbull pup found on the cusp of death in a bin at a woman's house - and Bob's got all manner of problems in Dennis Lehane's adaptation of his own short story.

The Drop is a solid crime thriller, with an understated Gandolfini and a restrained Hardy (replete with adorable puppy guaranteed to melt the internet with the subsequent memes) proving to be the main draw-cards. Theirs is the bond which binds us through the streets of Brooklyn and negotiates the complications and vice-tightening draw of the underworld.

Choosing not to mire these two in back-story, Lehane's script teases out details and insinuates a past that's both perceivable and implied; there's a menace among the threats that works infinitely better thanks to the use of the casual overtones. Noomi Rapace's Nadia (from whose bin Bob rescues the dog) is perhaps the weak link though - her damaged persona serving only to offer up a limited amount of tension and suspense as the final act plays out.

Maudlin and melancholy, Roskam's steeped this movie in parts which are occasionally hard to engage in. While Hardy's impressive as the soft-hearted thug throughout, his character's aloofness makes it difficult to engage with as the dourness builds to an inevitable conclusion. Gandolfini seems to play a version of Tony Soprano, albeit one that's dipped in melancholy weariness, a street cynicism that suggests he's seen it all before but can't find his way out or to the top. It's a symbolic end for him / Cousin Marv, but a sign the actor was likely to further deliver greatness had he continued.


As brooding disparate threads pull tightly together at the end, the simmering mix that's been bubbling away merely comes together in a fizzle rather than the emotional crack that's really needed  - and that's despite Hardy's magnetic presence.

The Drop's impressive in parts but overall, its story-telling doesn't quite come together in the way you'd hope or expect to raise it into the echelons of truly great crime dramas.

Rating:

Friday, 4 September 2015

A Night At The Museum 3: DVD Review

A Night At The Museum 3: DVD Review


Rating: G
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Ent


So, the final installment of the Night At The Museum trilogy is unleashed, with the deaths of both Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams hanging over them (to whom the film is dedicated).


Ben Stiller returns as museum night guard Larry, who finds that the magic tablet of Ahkmenrah is decaying for no discernible reason, threatening the very existence of everyone in the museum. Convincing his boss (an uptight Ricky Gervais) to send him and the tablet to the British museum to reunite with the other half of the expedition that discovered it, Larry, his son and a gang from the museum head abroad.

But as they head to the British museum, their presence brings to life everything there - causing problems for Larry and the gang.

Night At The Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb is an uneven film, mixing in some nice emotional beats with a glut of CGI shenanigans and an OTT performance from a dashingly deluded Sir Lancelot played by former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens.

Granted, a film that has a giant monkey peeing on Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson's mini-characters (to stave off lava from Pompeii) isn't promising to deliver much, but at times, it feels like Stiller et al are really phoning it in as they essentially go through a retread of the first film and the CGI shenanigans you've seen before.

And yet, in parts, the creatures in the British museum offer a degree of freshness even if the cast are simply moving from one corridor to the next, going through the episodic motions of a familiar farce. There are also some amusingly adult elements to the dialogue too with Larry remarking on how Attila the Hun was hacking into a dolphin like it was in The Cove and a certain cameo near the end offering up some smartly silly laughs. Equally, a showdown within an Escher painting brings a vital shot of cinematic creativity to the fore, an all too brief interlude before the cliched film resets to its default.


But too many of the scenes throughout drag on with strained banter that goes back and forth without any real punchline; too many opportunities feel wasted and the characters you know and love from the series are simply trotted out one last time because it's the end of the road.

There's no denying the poignancy of Robin Williams' final scene as Teddy Roosevelt, a last blast of sincerity and warmth which is punctuated with a manic rug-pull so endemic of Williams' own approach. It's a more than fitting send off which is then cruelly robbed of its emotional resonance just moments later in a lazy epilogue scene guaranteed to provide the sap and sentiment needed to wrap everything up happily ever after.

There's something to be said for Night At The Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb: its CGI (while over-used) brings real life into the creatures and will amaze the younger generation (much like David Attenborough's recent Natural History Alive special). But the lack of any real freshness or fizz within the cliched story and its execution (Larry's strained relationship with his son, everyone coming to terms with their place in life) lets down Night At The Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb quite badly, and leaves you with a feeling that you're quite glad that this exhibition is now being shut down.

Rating:

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Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Transporter Refuelled: Film Review

The Transporter Refuelled: Film Review


Cast: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Radivoje Bukvic
Director: Camille Delamarre

The Transporter is synonymous with Jason Statham.

His relative charm and charisma, plus his utter dedication to kicking some serious bottom, meant that you were able to forgive the wildly ludicrous plots on offer and set your brain in neutral until the end.

Sadly, there's nary a Stath in sight in this attempt to restart the franchise - instead it falls to Game of Thrones' Daario Naharis aka Ed Skrein to suit up and fill his shoes. Skrein (soon to be seen in Deadpool) plays Frank, back in 2010, who finds himself caught up in a revenge plot on the French Riviera. That's been kicked off by four prostitutes who kidnap Frank's dad to help him bring down a Russian gang boss who once forced them into his employment.

And that's really it for plot.

But you've never come to a Transporter film for a cerebral offering - it's about the fights, the action and the car chases.

So, it's sad to say that Delamarre brings absolutely nothing new to the table, but employs every cliche in the book to bring it all to life.

With parts resembling an extended advert for an Audi, complete with slow-mo shots of the pristine vehicle, and with such a predilection with Skrein's suit, it's nothing short of cliched and soulless. It doesn't help that Skrein's relatively charisma-free, delivering his whispered Cockney lines through sunken cheeks and reverting to smirking (and at times, looking like Nicholas Hoult's older, more stubbly brother).

The whole thing resembles something short of a mess too, with only a smattering of fight scenes giving you something to amuse - Skrein channels Jackie Chan at one point using a series of drawers to vex some assailants; it's the only real scene that shows any kind of creative flair as it treads through its ludicrously logic free scenario for its fights. Equally, a sequence where the car takes out fire hydrants in a pivoting circle to maximum effect is crisply executed - unlike the rest where the camera swoops in, swirls around and pulls out again (but only after the Audi's been caught in all its glory).

There's an attempt to set up some kind of father / son bonding with Frank Sr spending most of the film jibing his son as Junior and trying to channel a Harrison Ford / Sean Connery in Indiana Jones vibe, but it's flat in its delivery and tedious in its continuing execution (though fans of the series may claim giving Frank some more backstory helps flesh him out).

The problem with the Transporter Refuelled is that it's yet another soulless reboot, that feels formulaic and is going through the motions. Granted, some teen boys may enjoy the shots of scantily clad women gyrating for their Russian mobster bosses, but this cacophony of fast cuts and slow mo shots loses its charm within 15 minutes.

There's one moment in the film where Martin says "Pretty soon, they won't need people like me" - I'd politely suggest that based on the utterly pointless reboot, The Transporter Refuelled has already outlived its use - and needs to be permanently shelved because right now, it's running on empty.

Rating:


Until Dawn: PS4 Review

Until Dawn: PS4 Review


Platform: PS4
Released by Supermassive Games

It's perhaps one of life's cruel ironies that in the week we said a final goodbye to horror meister Wes Craven, I finally got to fully fire into horror game Until Dawn.

From SuperMassive Games, the makers of the Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, comes a horror that embraces the tropes and conventions of the genre and breathes gaming life into them.

Essentially, it's your usual scenario - a group of teens, some randy, some with history, head to a remote location (usually a cabin somewhere in some woods or somewhere equally abandoned where cell phone coverage is spotty at best) and have one party / holiday while something hunts them.

Until Dawn heaves all that to its gaming bosom, thrusting you into the lives of 8 teens who gather at Blackwood Pines lodge for their annual winter getaway, one year after the disappearance of two of their friends. With history already haunting them, the group finds their lives in danger...will they survive until dawn?

Until Dawn is a deeply immersive, beautifully executed take on the horror game.

Using a mechanic known as The Butterfly Effect, (not to be confused with the Ashton Kutcher film) the game proffers you choices in the lives of these teens with the caveat that each choice comes with a consequence (and also offering the game a certain number of replays when finally done); these consequences alter the story and its outcome as well as putting you in control of the characters themselves. The pick-a-path ethos is one I remember well from the books of my youth, and is well served within the game.

Whilst I get the argument that these choices are always pre-determined by way of the nature that there's only two of them, the ripple effect is a nice touch and a nod to the fact that most of the time when you watch horror films, dumb people do dumb things.

Visually the game is highly impressive. Deeply rendered atmospheric backgrounds gel with some superbly re-created characters, Until Dawn's visual excel and build on the kind of work we've seen in the likes of Beyond Two Souls. It helps that the talent is there, with the likes of Heroes and Nashville star Hayden Panettiere, Mr Robot's Remi Malek, Fargo's Peter Stormare, and Agents of SHIELD star Brett Dalton are all included and look instantly recognisable - it gives the game a kind of B movie cred that's intrinsic to its execution.

In terms of the mechanics, motion controls, quick time events and moving the sticks left and right control the decisions and actions of the character as you debate the ethics of who to betray, who to try to save etc etc. Granted, you can't wander too far off the beaten path, and fully explore the world around, but thanks to jump scares, you won't want to. Sound design and atmospherics, along with some numbskull dialogue set the tone perfectly and recreate the horror vibe to a tee.

There are also premonition laden totems to discover around the world too - with each giving a flash into a future a la Final Destination. And not all of those are positive...

Until Dawn could have been a bloody disaster, a killer game that committed suicide but what emerges is a relative bloody triumph that works within the tropes.

While some may feel the choices are limited and the game suffers because of that and a thin plot, the immersive and atmospheric nature of the game, the execution (both literally and visually) of the characters and the overall replication of the horror elements make it nothing short of a great game to turn all the lights off and dive into.

Rating:


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Metal Gear Solid V - Hideo Kojima, Kiefer Sutherland Interviews

Metal Gear Solid V - Hideo Kojima, Kiefer Sutherland Interviews



METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN BREAKS COVER TO INFILTRATE HOME FORMATS
                  
Konami Digital Entertainment B.V. has released the eagerly awaited METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN for PlayStation®4, PlayStation®3, XboxOne™, Xbox 360 and via Steam.

METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN is the series’ largest and most ambitious edition to date, expanding upon themes and content seen in its predecessor: METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES. Set within huge open-world environments, METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN is brought to vivid life with realistic weather patterns and day/night cycles. Thus, players can adapt their tactics to match the changing environment, creating an intuitive and non-linear gameplay experience. Similarly, a host of acclaimed METAL GEAR SOLID features return in hugely advanced forms, including expanded CQC (Close-Quarter Combat) skills, vastly improved enemy AI, online elements that complement the single player campaign, and an all-new version of METAL GEAR ONLINE, a competitive multiplayer mode, included within the main game and which goes live on October 6th.

KONAMI’s groundbreaking title sets a new standard in stealth-action, with the series’ famed sneaking elements greatly expanded within the sprawling play area. A host of new characters – both allies and enemies – tell a story driven by revenge, as franchise protagonist Big Boss enters a series of battlefields following the deaths of his colleagues. Central to the game is a hideously disfigured adversary known as Skull Face, while the ongoing conflict also introduces the new, iconic characters, such as the mysterious Quiet – a mute female sniper with incredible abilities.

Tactical elements are also added to the game via METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN’s new Mother Base system. Players begin with a small-scale off-shore rig that serves as a base for your recruits – the Diamond Dogs. The Mother Base can be customized and expanded using liberated items and personnel. Players use an enhanced version of the innovative Fulton system pioneered in METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER to airlift guards, vehicles, weapons, raw materials and kit, to their base, where the staff will use these resources to develop the base to the user’s specifications. The game also includes a massively multi-player online mode - the Forward Operating Base (FOB) system. FOB’s act as an extension to your Mother Base and can increase profit, resources and manpower. However, constructing FOBs does come with certain risks. Since FOBs are built in remote locations away from your Mother Base they are susceptible to attack by other rival private forces. Other players online, may target and attempt to steal resources and manpower from your FOBs, and in turn, you’ll be able to invade theirs. To minimize those threats though players can implement various security measures to respond to intrusions. 

Additionally, METAL GEAR ONLINE - the game’s dedicated competitive multiplayer mode - will go live soon after the launch of METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN. The online element represents the third iteration of the popular multiplayer game, newly redesigned with the familiar gameplay and aesthetic styling of its companion single-player campaign. METAL GEAR ONLINE features a “class system” that more uniquely defines the strengths and abilities of player characters on the battlefield. Key characters from the series including Venom Snake and Ocelot will also make appearances in the anticipated multiplayer feature.


METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN, including METAL GEAR ONLINE - which will be available for download on October 6th, will retail with a RRP of $109.95 for the PlayStation®4 and Xbox One, and $89.95 for the PlayStation®3 and Xbox 360. 



The Fifth Wave trailer drops

The Fifth Wave trailer drops


In the new film The 5th Wave, four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated. 

Against a backdrop of fear and distrust, Cassie (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. 

As she prepares for the inevitable and lethal 5th wave, Cassie teams up with a young man who may become her final hope - if she can only trust him.

The Fifth Wave hits cinemas January 14th.