Thursday, 24 November 2011

Arthur Christmas 3D: Movie Review

Arthur Christmas 3D: Movie Review

Arthur Christmas
Rating: 8/10
Vocal cast: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Ashley Jensen
Director: Sarah Smith
Ah, Christmas.
A time of strained tensions, screaming kids and festive goodwill to all.
That and Christmas-themed movies.
Add to that list, the latest from Aardman Animations, a computer generated tale about James McAvoy's Arthur Christmas, the second son of Father Christmas (Jim Broadbent). Arthur's job at the North Pole is to reply to the letters sent by the kids asking Santa for presents - whereas his older brother Steve (House's Hugh Laurie) is there to co-ordinate the elves as they deliver billions of presents in one night.
But this Christmas, something goes a little awry and one present's left undelivered. As far as Steve and Santa are concerned, it's no major but Arthur's unhappy that one kid, in Cornwall in the UK, will miss out on the magic of Christmas if they don't get their new bike.
So, along with the retired GrandSanta (Nighy), Arthur sets out to ensure this Christmas won't be ruined. But the adventure of a lifetime is a little more than the worrywart Arthur expected.
Arthur Christmas is a bright, joyous, festive treat which will keep the kids happy during the up-coming break. But there's also just enough to keep the adults amused too with a script that's smart in scattered places (one kid writes to Santa: "If you live in the North Pole, how come I can't see your house on Google maps?").
McAvoy brings a weediness to his Arthur which contrasts nicely with Laurie's efficient Steve and Broadbent's been in the job too long Santa. Nighy is amusing as GrandSanta and there's a nice running theme about different generations and expectations as well as a sarcastic vein pumping through.
But for every sentimental moment within Arthur Christmas, there's an equal moment of sheer lunacy which gives the film a slightly unpredictable feel which is very welcome amid the usual festive schmaltz. There's also a sign Aardman's taking on Pixar with a nod to one of its other characters contained subtly within as well - fans of animation will be delighted by that.

Arthur Christmas is to be enjoyed; with the magic of Christmas in its heart and a fair few ho ho hos, it's certainly something that will remind you of the joys of the holiday.

Immortals: Movie Review

Immortals: Movie Review

Immortals
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke, Luke Evans, John Hurt
Director: Tarsem Singh
Swords, sandals, slow mo fight scenes and a lot of blood.
Nope, it's not 300 - it's from the producers of 300 that we get Immortals, the tale set in Ancient Greece.
Henry Cavill (the future Superman) plays Theseus, a peasant living in a small village and suddenly facing the marauding hordes of King Hyperion. Hyperion, played by a scene chewing Mickey Rourke, is trying to find a mystical bow to free the evil Titans from Mount Tartarus.
The Titans were imprisoned by the gods of Greece and believed by Hyperion to be the deciding factor in a war against the Olympian gods (headed up by Luke Evans' Zeus).
Teaming up with an oracle (Slumdog's Pinto) and a thief (Stephen Dorff), Theseus leads the charge to try and save the world both above and below from the disastrous consequences of an onslaught by Hyperion's hordes...
Immortals is a flat, emotionless piece, blessed with some truly outstanding visuals.
It treats the mythology of Greece extremely lightly but Singh does actually give a nice twist to some of the tales of Theseus - including the clash with the Minotaur.
Dialogue itself is largely uninspired and most of the film is painfully slow and lacking in any initially gripping moments.
But throughout the film, Singh uses visuals to jawdropping effect - he swoops in and out of CGI rendered scenes, gives us more slow mo then speeded up fight scenes and shows heads being smashed and turned into bloody explosions.
And it's this which really brings the film to life - a final fight sequence between the gods and the Titans is absolutely stunning and is one of the finest recreations seen this year as the attack happens. With sped up shots, slow moments and impressive FX, this is the film's major saving grace in a relatively spectacle free affair.
Of the leads, Cavill's good, Rourke's just a mumbling despot on a killing spree and Pinto's largely wasted - but quite frankly in these kinds of films, you're here to see buffed up bodies, impressive FX and scintillating fight scenes.

Immortals offers up an uneasy mix - moments of manic energy coupled with stilted and slow storytelling make it an unfortunately unsatisfying night at the cinema.

Rest for the Wicked: Movie Review

Rest for the Wicked: Movie Review

Rest for the Wicked
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Tony Barry, John Bach, Ian Mune, Sara Wiseman
Director: Simon Pattison
It's off to the rest homes for this detective story.
Tony Barry stars as Murray Baxter, a cop going undercover to finally get his oldest rival, Frank (This Is Not My Life's John Bach). Baxter's been pursuing his prey for years but has never had enough goods to seal the case and send Frank down.
But convinced heading into the rest home where Frank lives will help him gather the evidence he needs, he's prepared to risk it all.
However, when Murray gets to Knightsbridge Gardens, another couple of deaths occur and he's convinced Frank's behind them and that it's only a matter of time before his nemesis slips up...
Rest For The Wicked is probably a film for a generation in its twilight years. With a cast mainly recognizable from their long body of work in the Kiwi industry and a current Go Girls star, there will be a lot of familiar faces in this gently comic piece.
Tony Barry is venerable and dignified in his lead role and brings a gentleness to the dogged Murray who just can't put his grudge against Frank behind him; Bach is equally as impressive as the slightly sinister Frank who oozes a menace and calm that makes it hard to see if he is actually the bad guy or not.
As for the rest of the rest home cast, I'm not sure some won't be offended by their portrayal as a slightly batty, over sexed and comical bunch; there's one old gentleman who goes on about Australia and two elderly ladies who are out to seduce Murray.

There's a twist in the tale, which to be honest, you can see a mile off - but Simon Pattison does a reasonable job of guiding us through this tale. From its wryly amusing opening sequence of Frank as a Dirty Harry type taking down the inhabitants of a P Lab before making off on his mobility scooter to its ending, there's a whimsical feel to the film, which while not fully captivating, does allow its elderly cast to prove, once again, talent knows no boundaries.

The Whistleblower: Movie Review

The Whistleblower: Movie Review

The Whistleblower
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Vanessa Redgrave, Benedict Cumberbatch, Monica Bellucci
Director: Larysa Kondracki
Rachel Weisz stars in this drama which is inspired by true events.
Weisz plays Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska policewoman who, desperate for cash, accepts a position as a peacekeeper in Bosnia. Well, for $100,000 for 6 months work, you would take it, wouldn't you?
But once she gets there she finds her task of rebuilding a country in ruins becomes even more difficult when she discovers a massive conspiracy involving the UN, sex trafficking and a major cover up.
The Whistleblower is not an easy film to watch. It's gritty, grimy and uncomfortably harrowing viewing in some places. A lot of what's done to these poor individuals is implied rather than explicit and it makes it hard to view.
That aside, Weisz is good as the morally straight Bolkovac in this solid film - she gives the struggle and turmoil a plausible face and something to latch onto during this occasionally rocky road. Granted, you could end up feeling Bolkovac is a little naïve going into this expecting miracles when it comes to saving everyone, but there's a real pluck about her fight as the mire of human corruption rises up and festers around everyone in the UN like a bubbling cesspit.

A mix of mistrust, solid thriller and dark film-making makes the Whistleblower an earnest and worthy - if undramatic - night out and one which will make you question what you really believe about the UN.

Submarine: Movie Review

Submarine: Movie Review

Submarine
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Craig Roberts, Paddy Considine, Noah Taylor, Gemma Chan, Yasmin Paige
Director: Richard Ayoade
Richard Ayoade aka Moss from The IT Crowd has a stunning directorial debut in this coming of age tale set in Wales.
Craig Roberts is duffel-coated 15 year old Oliver Tate, a teen who's in love with a schoolmate and whose obsession with the state of his parents' marriage may end up sending him to an early grave.
Tate is an awkward kid -he reckons he's the bees' knees and is in denial with the reality that he's uncool and socially backward. However, that doesn't stop him from beginning a relationship with Yasmin Paige's Jordana.
Sally Hawkins is the mum, Noah Taylor the depressed dad and Paddy Considine, a mulleted mystic and ex-flame who could cause the rift between Tate's parents to grow.
Tate decides to try and get the family to rekindle their relationship and love - with sometimes depressingly humorous consequences.
Moments of laugh out loud dry humour are interlaced with stylish and stylistic film making, freeze frames and jump cuts as Ayoade shows he's a serious talent to be reckoned with.
Deft,delightful and deliciously dark at times, this is a sensational debut and one which showcases the very best of the international talent.

Submarine is a joy and a delight which cries for you to love it - perhaps a little too hard at times, but it's difficult to resist its many charms.

When A City Falls: Movie Review

When A City Falls: Movie Review

When A City Falls
Rating: 8/10
Cast: The people of Canterbury
Director: Gerard Smyth
Sometimes, a film makes itself.
So it is with When A City Falls, the documentary film about the series of earthquakes which rocked Canterbury this year and last, and changed our worlds as New Zealanders forever.
Christchurch resident Gerard Smyth really didn't have to do much when they hit - he simply picked up his camera and let the documentary make itself.
Basically made over an 12 month period and beginning with blue skies and daffodils on the Canterbury plains, Smyth follows the events which unfold in the Garden city and nearby. As Smyth's own voiceover at the start of the film intones: "This is a film I could never have planned to make".
But what emerges is a grippingly, emotional piece on the human condition and how we as human beings respond in times of tragedy and personal loss.
Also, what comes out is a deeply humbling study of what makes us Kiwis and showcases the very best of human nature.
Smyth's strength in this film is the people around him. He's smart enough to realise that this story is powerful enough to not need voiceover and limits it to simply asking questions.
These are images from the quake which have haunted (and continue to do so) many; but When A City Falls also benefits greatly from this approach by letting the people involved tell the story rather than a pompous voiceover. That works wonders by giving it a more original feel and an immediately identifiable stranglehold on your emotions
Plus when the footage of that fateful day on 22nd February is shown, the powerful ferocity of what unfolds is even more affecting because the screen simply shows what happened.
Countless faces are caught in crowds, moments framed by time and the film-makers; and the people Smyth uses are nameless but their stories are universal and instantly recognisable as well as heartbreaking, humbling and inspiring.
That's the thing with When A City Falls - there are a million stories to tell and a million voices to be heard with an event such as this. And it would've been easy to let it descend into doom and gloom.
But what's been done here ends up being uplifting in spirit and unique as we follow everyday people trying to live their lives and cope with what nature dealt to them thanks to help from strangers, their communities and from further afield. The fact Smyth's had unfettered access to what was going on means a lot of the footage is new to many of us but horribly recognisable in many ways.
Also, Smyth and his team choose to tackle some of the problems from the quake; be it the arguments over heritage buildings' destruction, people's shops torn down by accident and even heads to New Orleans and San Francisco to proffer up some help for the region.
When A City Falls won't be an easy watch for those involved in this - but I'd suggest it offers a little piece of healing up as it demonstrates quiet dignity and moments of resilience and pure humanity that will shine through.

Truly inspirational and utterly important, this doco demands to be seen and will ultimately stand as a testament to Cantabrians and this nation as a whole.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Game Review: Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3

Game Review: Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
Released by THQ
Platform: PS3
Fighting games are pretty common these days with the likes of Street Fighter pretty much KOing the competition.
So the latest contender, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 emerges onto the scene and you'd think there was very little else to add to the genre. And to be fair, you'd have a point.
But this smack 'em up is a good solid entertaining fare with players being given the chance to play as the likes of She Hulk, Captain America et al from the Marvel universe as they take on each other in a fight to the death.
However, this time rather than being just one player against a horde of many, there's a chance to pick three fighters to form part of a tag team against three opponents. Sure the usual fights are there and the chance to punch all kinds of buttons to achieve all kinds of combos, but being part of the tag team means you're usually given a better chance to defeat the opposition. Add into that mix, aerial combos, moves you can bust out under an X factor move (a more powerful and longer burst of fighting goodness) and there's enough to keep you, your friends and the online community amused.
While graphically, the game is as good as ever, it's nice to see the comics of Marvel embraced in a very cool way into the gameplay. Characters come to life, cartoon style words are employed on screen and the whole thing starts with a comic flick book - it's a nice nod to the genre it's taking from and gives the game a feel of authenticity rather than a super quick cheap cash in.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 won't redefine the wheel in many ways; however, what it will do is entertain you and keep you amused in equal measure - and wanting to kick your friends' asses in new and exciting ways.

Rating: 7/10 


Monday, 21 November 2011

Game Review - Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Game Review - Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Released by Sony Entertainment
Platform: PS3
It's been a strong end to the year on the gaming front, with the likes of Batman Arkham City redefining the third person adventure genre.
And now, into the fray comes Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
The latest from Naughty Dog is simply a cinematic wonder and a game to engross yourself in.
There's plenty of storyline here and to be honest, to reveal too much of it would really take some of the surprises away from you. It begins with Nathan Drake being caught in a bar brawl in England and it doesn't let up from there, taking in planes, deserts, and many more worldwide locations.
Throw in flashbacks and other bits and bobs, and there's plenty to absorb yourself in here.
But the thing is with Uncharted 3 is just how good it looks; every cut scene's been lovingly put together, with plenty of detail and plot worthy of a good cinema script. Add in some amazingly good graphic work and you can begin to see why this is such a visually impressive experience.
Gameplay wise, it's just as good - granted, there are a few frustrations as some missions give way to trying to work out exactly what you're doing, making it just that bit trickier to ascertain what's expected of you. But the challenge is certainly an enduring one and one which raises the bar for the Uncharted franchise. Regardless of whether you play a one person game or take the multiplayer option, there's certainly a lot to keep you entertained and challenged for hours.
I can't wait to see what they do next with this blend of Indiana Jones and console gaming - it's one hell of an experience, one hell of a game and one hell of a contender for game of the year.

Rating: 9/10 

Game Review: Rayman Origins

Game Review: Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins
Released by Ubisoft
Platform: PS3
I've never encountered Rayman before - even though he appeared on the scene back in 1995.
However, if this latest platformer is anything to go by, I'll certainly be seeking out some of his former outings.
The side scrolling game, which can accommodate four players in total, sees Rayman having to fight off enemies in levels, gather up "Electoons" (a kind of emoticon but I'm guessing they couldn't use that exact name), Lums (a kind of firefly creature with a sunshiney glow) and free the Nymphs of the world after an Underworld granny is disturbed and unleashes her minions upon them.
And that description will tell you everything you need to know about Rayman - if you'd not met him before.
The cartoonish graphics are perhaps best described as demented and reminiscent in some ways of Ren and Stimpy; however, Rayman Origins is very, very playable and ever so slightly addictive in its madness. Whether it's bounding around collecting lums, blasting grannies or climbing on mosquitos and shooting through the skies, there's a collective lunacy to this French based game which is highly endearing and utterly addictive.
Each level has several aims within - you have to either collect a certain number of Lums, achieve a time goal or get through unscathed. It means each level rewards multi plays and if you're just short of a target number, you'll bound right back into it straight away.
Rayman Origins is at heart, a really good fun platformer - with the multi player options, different animation and ease of play, it's great fun right from the get go for gamers of any age - and for those who've never been part of the franchise, it's a great leaping in point.

Rating: 8/10 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Cars 2: Blu Ray Review

Cars 2: Blu Ray Review

Cars 2
Rating: PG
Released by Sony Home Ent and Disney
So, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his pal Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) return in this sequel to the 2006 smash about animated cars.

This time round, there's more racing mixed in with a heavy side of industrial espionage.

When McQueen's goaded into taking part in the World Grand Prix by the flashy racing car Francesco (John Turturro), he pulls together a team to help him win the day. On that team is hillbilly tow truck and long term friend Mater. But through a series of mix ups, Mater finds himself involved in Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his quest to break an industrial spy ring
And that causes rifts between the two friends - can the rocky road to winning bring them back together in this global adventure?

There's nothing wrong with this sequel - it's bright, it's flashy and its animation is once again top notch (particularly the absolutely incredible global backgrounds which are brought to life)- and it's great entertainment for the young (and admittedly the young at heart.)

But I felt a little let down at the end of it - the adventures of Mater take top billing and sideline McQueen to the pitstop and I think in some ways, that's where it lacks a little heart and warmth as you'd come to expect from a Pixar flick. The film's very much a derring do tale of spies and espionage but it suffers a little from a lack of comedy as it treads the usual "embarassed by my buddy abroad" and "Culture clash" ground. There are laughs and some smart visual gags here and there, but I think this one's more aimed at the younger end (and the kids at the screening loved it) than the whole gamut as other Pixar films are wont to do.
Extras: Commentary, brilliant Toy Story short and little else

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 19 November 2011

My Afternoons with Margueritte: DVD Review

My Afternoons with Margueritte: DVD Review

My Afternoons with Margueritte
Released by Warner Home Video

Gerard Depardieu stars in this gently Gallic rustic piece about friendship.

He plays Germain Chazes a man who starts the film kicking down a door after being ripped off for doing a job.
On a walk back home he meets Margueritte (Gisele Casadesus) a kindly old lady and a friendship is slowly born through a shared book and a love of stories, as well as feeding the local pigeons

My Afternoons with Margueritte is a gentle and pleasant piece which is as breezy as a summer cloud.

It's a sweet piece about the regrets of the past - Depardieu, looking incredibly portly and like Obelix from the French comics, is affable and loveable enough as he negotiates a monstrous mother who along with school has held him back for years as various flashbacks explain. Equally his friendship with Casadesus is easy and understandable as they continue to meet - it contrasts nicely with the harsh ribbing he takes from friends at a local cafe.

There's a sweet vibe to this film which wafts you along with it in a very simple way. It may not be the most memorable of pieces but it's certainly uplifting and heart warming as it plays out before you.

Rating: 6/10 

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Inbetweeners Season 3: DVD Review

The Inbetweeners Season 3: DVD Review

The Inbetweeners Season 3
Rating: M
Released by Hopscotch Ent and Roadshow
All good things have to come to an end.
So it is with the series The Inbetweeners. Well, as you'd expect when a show's based on high school kids.
In the final batch of six episodes, Will, Jay, Neil and Simon all return for more humiliation and innuendo as they enter their last year at school. This time, fashion shows, visits to uni and a camping trip form the basis of their outings - and once again, the writing feels fresh, funny and as rude as ever before.
The chemistry between the main quartet is startlingly good and the writing's as sharp as ever in this final run. Thankfully those involved saw the sense in finishing this now while the going's good.
Extras: A good solid bunch and a nice wrap up to these three releases.

Rating: 7/10 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Project Nim: Movie Review

Project Nim: Movie Review

Project Nim
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Nim The Chimp, Bob Angelini, Bern Cohen and Renne Falitz
Director: James Marsh
In 1970s Manhattan, a newborn chimp was taken from its mother and deposited in a family home as part of an experiment to see if said chimp can pick up sign language and construct sentences.
Nim was the chimp - and the effects of what happened forms the basis of this engrossing and horrifying documentary from the team who made Man On Wire.
Don't worry, it's not a precursor to Planet of the Apes, more of a look at how far we can go sometimes as humans and it's terrifying in many ways.The doco uses home movie footage and pictures and modern day interviews to construct a well told tale and a journey which will occasionally leave you agog as to what was achieved,what was abandoned and what the cost was to our humanity and those whose lives Nim was part of.

This doco is utterly mesmerizing, heartbreaking and also wondrous in its narrative style - disappointingly,some questions are left unanswered but what emerges is a tale of betrayal, mistrust, anger and a chimp who changed lives. A remarkably good doco Project Nim is a stylish and engaging piece looking at the human condition.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part One: Movie Review

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part One: Movie Review

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part One
Rating: See below
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner,
Director: Bill Condon
So it's finally here.
The final film of the Twilight Saga franchise - well, the first part of it anyway - heads onto Kiwi cinema screens amid mass expectation from the fans, and to be frank, a little indifference from anyone who's not a Twihard.
This time around after years of anticipation, it's all about the wedding of human Bella (Stewart) and sparkly vamp boy Edward Cullen (RPatz). Well, that and the monstrous after effects...
Despite protestations from occasionally shirtless wolf shapeshifting boy and former partial love, Jacob (sulky Lautner), Bella marries Edward and the pair head away for Rio de Janeiro to celebrate their honeymoon and consummate their long drawn out courtship.
But when Bella becomes pregnant, the ramifications for the fractured relationships between wolves and vamps bubble up to the surface again and with the uncertainty of what the unborn child will do to an already strained truce between the two races, these two have more than post wedding blues to deal with.
It's really quite difficult to review this latest installment of the Twilight Saga as a critic because quite frankly, like the final Harry Potter film earlier this year, it's simply reviewer proof and will do the box office business whatever the naysayers say.
Over nearly two hours, to be honest, very little actually happens; there's a wedding and a lot of skulking/ brooding and worrying/foreshadowing about the future, complete with scenes on their honeymoon which are lashed with copious emo style music and with swirling camera motions and long draping shots of the duo. The dialogue is once again, as you've come to expect in the Twi-saga wooden, stilted and sounds terrible when voiced. Comments like "I won't kill you; that's too easy - you deserve to live with this" and "You only killed monsters - you saved more lives than you took" simply come across as laughable and do nothing to give any real depth to the film itself. Along with the moment when the baby's name is revealed as Renesmee, to hear characters spouting "It's beautiful, it's unique" and trying their best to be earnest is just laughable.
But I'm guessing any Twihard fan will consider these moments romantic and dramatic; and will swoon over Edward telling his new wife "Last night was the best night of my existence", because you're meant to remember what it's like to be romantic and in love. Granted, Kristen Stewart gives a good performance as her awkward doubts and fears over devoting her life to one man for eternity give way to the horrors of the unborn child destroying her from within. And the effects which accompany her descent into ill health are well presented and shocking. As for Taylor Lautner's sulking Jacob and RPatz's brooding Edward, they're both not offering anything at all and are quite stilted in places. The wedding scene at the start is actually well done and beautiful but a swirling soundtrack and Condon's propensity to lash every scene with music makes you feel a little like you're being beaten into submission.
While the scenes of fighting vamps and wolves were quite strong and well done in previous films, this time around, they're gloomy and hard to watch as they all take place in the dark. Plus one scene where a pack of wolves carry out a mental confrontation which is pivotal to Jacob is quite frankly likely to give you the giggles. Equally the love scene which is supposed to be intense and violent as is befitting their nature is now just a series of moments, soft focus cutaways and primarily the punchline to a joke.
I think where some of this film's failing comes from is its accessibility (or lack thereof).
Whereas the final Harry Potter film was entirely watchable if you'd not seen what had gone already, Breaking Dawn - Part One feels in places, quite impenetrable. The whole thing is clearly aimed at those who've been with the franchise all the way; and those who don't know their vamps from their wolves, their Cullens from their Quileute may feel a little lost.
Ultimately, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part One is going to be loved by the fans of the franchise for what it actually delivers; this is, after all, what they've been waiting for as it all finally ends. They'll love what transpires on the screens from their heroes and heroine as they're invested in it; and it's likely the end of the first part will have them frothing in a frenzy about what the second half will bring next year. Anyone else who watches this film may feel that this series has been going on for too long, is running a little short on creative ideas and that it's time it was staked and turned to dust.

Rating: Twihards: 8/10; Non-Twihards 4/10

Tucker and Dale vs Evil: Blu Ray Review

Tucker and Dale vs Evil: Blu Ray Review

Tucker and Dale vs Evil
Rating: M
Released by Warner Home video
Tucker and Dale Vs Evil is likely to be the new cult hit.
A comedy horror with aspirations to do for hillbillies what Shaun of the Dead did for zombies, it's got a neat premise.
Tyler Labine (of Reaper) and Alan Tudyk (of Firefly and anything cool) are the Tucker and Dale of the title; a pair of hillbillies who're just heading into the woods to do up their vacation home. But when they get nearly run off the road by a group of college kids, enemies are made.
The hapless duo find things get worse when they save one of the girls from drowning and take her back to their cabin - soon, her friends are, in their words, "in a suicide pact" and "killing themselves on my property."
Simple misunderstandings lead to hilarity and horror in equal measures - and you'll never look at a hillbilly again in an unsympathetic light.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Transformers 3: Blu Ray Review

Transformers 3: Blu Ray Review

Transformers Dark of the Moon
Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

Back for a third time, the Autobots and the Decepticons continue their life long robotic battle.

Thrown into the middle of this eternal scrap between good and evil is Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky who's struggling to get a job and is becoming resentful he saved the world (twice) for little lasting reward.

This time when it appears a deciding component in the struggle's been found in a spaceship which crashed into the moon around the time of Apollo 11's landing in the 60s, both sides scramble to try and seize it.

But it soon transpires the whole thing could signal the end for them - as well as us...

Transformers Dark of the Moon is a typical Michael Bay gig; there are explosions aplenty, set pieces and plenty of swooping shots of planes and choppers as they head into war.

Happily though Bay has dialled down the frenetic pace of the last film which saw scenes of utter mayhem and robots transforming at such a pace, you could barely keep up with it.
This time it's less of a blur and means the couple of major set pieces are absolutely stunning - including a chase scene on the freeway and an attack piece inside a building. It gives the effects a little more space to breathe and visually sends your eyes on one hell of a journey.

As for the humans, Shia makes good fist of whining Sam and shows he can carry an action film- however, that's not the case with the rest of the supporting cast - particularly Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Sadly with her, it's a case of bringing in some eye candy to titillate (as the camera lingers lovingly over her form at every chance) because the moment she starts speaking, it's starchly wooden and
robotic. She manages an improvement towards the end though which is a relief - even if it's a minor improvement.
Of the heavily crowded ensemble, John Malkovich and Ken Jeong have cameos which are blown away by Alan Tudyk's supporting turn.
In many ways on screen, this third film is way too bloated - with an overly long running time which starts to sag, the older end of the audience may feel their attention span drift - though the kids will love it.

Rating: 6/10


Waiting for Superman: DVD Review

Waiting for Superman: DVD Review

Waiting for Superman
Rating: PG
Released by Universal Home entertainment

Waiting for Superman is a doco about the American education system and its failings.

From Davis Guggenheim (who brought us An Inconvenient Truth) its USP is that this doco blames weak teachers for the failing students rather than the system itself.

Choosing to follow a clutch of kids from all sides of America and their families who want the best for them educationally, it manages to humanize the issue. Throw into the mix some inspirational teachers who're trying to make the difference after realizing what's wrong and some damning evidence (and some anecdotal) about where it's going wrong and you've got a fairly potent mix.

Mix in animations and clips from the School of Rock and The Simpsons and Waiting for Superman aims to get its message out to all - many will appreciate what it's saying; some will feel, once again, that the doco maker is following his own agenda.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Game Review - Sonic Generations

Game Review - Sonic Generations

Sonic Generations
Released by Sega
Platform PS3
Has it really been 20 years since the little blue hedgehog first appeared on the scene?
I vividly remember the first time I played the original Sonic The Hedgehog and being blown away by the speed of the game and the fun of it all.
So, 20 years on, there's another game out and this one embraces the last two decades of Blue Hedgehoggy goodness.
In Sonic Generations, Sonic himself is celebrating his birthday when out of nowhere, a creature known as The Time Eater appears and sucks Sonic and his friends into a series of portals and scattering them across history. As Sonic begins hunting for his pals, he encounters the younger version of himself and the two of them have to team up to ensure their mates can be saved and the bad guys beaten.
Melding levels from all of the Sonic releases from the past 2 decades is quite a novel approach to this game; throw into that mix, the chance to play as Modern and Classic Sonic and all of the spin skills, bouncing, grinding and jumping they've had throughout their career and you're pretty much looking at the ultimate Sonic Game.
As well as various game levels to complete, there are side challenges as well and the whole gameplay experience for Sonic Generations really does feel like a compendium of gaming. There's the nostalgia factor at play here too - as you burn around different levels, you really do remember why it was that you fell in love with Sonic in the first place; even if occasionally, you remember the frustrations of the latter era of the games.
With tremendous graphics, bright colours, a somewhat irritating series of tunes, Sonic Generations is a timely reminder of why and how the Hedgehog changed the gaming landscape. It's a fun, frivolous and affectionate tribute to a legend and a timely reminder that sometimes the simplest of games are the most playable and enduring.

Rating: 8/10 

Game Review - Disney Universe

Game Review - Disney Universe

Disney Universe
Released by THQ/ Disney
Platform: PS3
As the Christmas rush continues, there's ever more pressure on the dollar and from the kids to keep their gaming needs satiated.
Enter then, Disney Universe, the latest contender for your cash and their time.
As a visitor to Disney Universe, it all looks like a sweet place to visit - Disney characters all around and general peace and love as good ole Uncle Walt would have wanted. But the Disney universe has been invaded by bad guys and it's now upto you to save the day. You get to dress up in a costume from Disney movies and take on each challenge. Each level is divided into three sub levels and you have to go into each one, perform a few tasks, save a trapped visitor and generally collect as many gold stars as you can.
And that's pretty much it to be honest.
But it's enduringly cute and relatively playable (if you can put up with the repetitive nature of some of the levels). The puzzles are simple and with arrows telling you where to go and what to do, even the most novice of gamer can achieve something in this. There are also power ups available and plenty of costumes to utilise (from the likes of Monsters Inc, Wall-E, Mickey Mouse et al) so there's always something to keep you amused. And with the chance to build up each costume via every level, there's certainly enough challenges ahead.
The only real problem of this rather cute little platformer is that it does feel a little samey level after level; thankfully the option of multi player competitions and some online content give it a bit of a longer shelf life but all in all, Disney Universe is a relatively sweet and simplistic game which may well keep the kids (and the big kids) amused over the upcoming Christmas break for a short while.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Dr Who S6 Part 2: Blu Ray Review

Dr Who S6 Part 2: Blu Ray Review

Dr Who S6 Part 2 Blu Ray
Rating: PG
Released by BBC and Roadshow
So the second half of this truncated season of Matt Smith's latest outing as Doctor Who comes out - and with it the creaking heavy weight of expectation from fans that writer Steven Moffat actually has an idea of what he's doing.
With the first episode of the 1st half of the season indicating that the Dr would die, there was a sense of foreboding in this set. Throw into that, the truth behind Alex Kingston's River Song being revealed at the end of the last run and there's certainly a lot for them to live upto.
Thankfully, it does - with the opening episode Let's Kill Hitler showing how they've got a lot creatively to give, there's certainly plenty of life left in the time lord yet. This shorter run of 6 eps does suffer a little in terms of story telling with some of them not being as strong as they could be. But with a final ep that proves the wait was worth it in terms of story and emotional core, the pacy run feels satisfying in many ways.
However, it does feel at times that a lot of the story telling and arcs from the past 3 years have run their course and it's really time to change tack for the future. Once again though, Matt Smith knocks it out of the park as Doc 11 and Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill certainly get stronger material to work with.
Extras: Disappointingly very few - may be worth holding off for the entire season set due before Christmas

Rating: 7/10 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Beginners: Movie Review

Beginners: Movie Review

Beginners
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Melanie Laurent, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Goran Visnjic
Director: Mike Mills
Sad, sweet, melancholy and extremely moving, Beginners sees Ewan McGregor as Oliver,dealing with his father's death (played brilliantly by Christopher Plummer)from cancer.
Just 5 years before his death, his dad came out and began a new lease of life at 75 with a younger man (ER's Visnjic) ;and it's this which inspires Oliver to do the same as he starts a cautious courtship with Anna (Melanie Laurent).
With flashbacks interspersed with some wry narrative tricks and snapshots of life then and now, Mike Mills has made a truly warm and affectionate picture which is subtle and astoundingly good. McGregor's barely been better and Laurent is the perfect romantic foil for him. This is a romatic pair who work really well together and the warmth of the narrative hits you in the heart when you least expect it.
Swinging back and forth helps it all come together and the end could see you in tears.

Plus throw in a cute dog as well who says it all in subtitles, and it's easy to see why this is recommended. Quirky, heartfelt, endearing and human, it's a rare treat late in the year and one which should be relished and cherished.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Batman: Arkham City: PS3 Review

Batman: Arkham City: PS3 Review

Batman Arkham City 
Released by Rocksteady and Warner Bros 
Rating: M 

Wow. 

Simply put, there's very little else to say about this new release which once again puts you back into the Bat Boots as the Caped Crusader.

Expanding the world that was created in Batman: Arkham Asylum was always going to be a difficult task, but developers Rocksteady have made a game which incorporates the world of the Batman so seamlessly with its mythology that it becomes one of the best playing experiences around. 

In terms of plot - Bruce Wayne is captured and dumped behind the locked walls of Arkham City, a prison area of Gotham City. It's here the dregs and the deranged members of society are dumped - along with some of the Bat's deadliest foes -including his nemesis, Joker. 

So when Wayne awakes from his kidnapping, he's understandably keen to get out - and that's where the Batman comes in. Armed with help via comms from loyal butler Alfred, Batman's got to find out what's going on in Arkham City and how it can be stopped... 

The plot may sound a little generic but for fans of the Batman mythology, it's a shame to spoil the surprises and characters which crop up as the game progresses. 

As a playable landscape, Arkham City is just stunning; the world's been beautifully realized and feels like a pastiche of crime films and Blade Runner. Coupled with the cinematic touches and cutscenes, there's so much to immerse yourself in here that you really can lose yourself in Arkham City. Throw in top notch voice work from those who've been involved in the franchise for a very long time and you're aware this is a labour of love from the developers' point of view as well as a player's. 

Using stealth attacks, gliding, an array of Bat gadgets, there's plenty on show for you to build up your armoury, your stamina and your skills and the game really does reward continuous playing. As well as the main storyline, there are side missions too which pepper Gotham City and give you a bit of a breather from what needs to be done. 

Easily one of the games of the year, Batman Arkham City is one hell of an experience and one of the best entrants into the Batman genre; it embraces and expands the mythology and is a totally exciting and entertaining proposition for any gaming fan. 

X Men First Class: Blu Ray Review

X Men First Class: Blu Ray Review

X Men First class
Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent and 20th Century Fox

So once more back into the X Men breach - and a third attempt at an origins film.

This time though it's from the minds who brought us the truly wonderful Kick Ass.

James McAvoy stars as Charles Xavier, a gifted young man whose life is decided by the altruistic path he forges in nurturing mutant kind and uttering the word "Groovy" as the 1960s progress.

Directly idealogically opposite him is Erik Lehnsherr (a brilliant Michael Fassbender) whose youth is defined by his tortuous treatment as a Jew in the Nazi concentration camps at the hands of Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon).

So Erik sets out to hunt Shaw down and kill him - but when Shaw threatens to bring the world to its knees via nuclear war, Erik and Xavier join forces - along with other newly discovered mutants to try to avert a potential world war three.

X Men First Class is better than some of the more recent entrants into the franchise but it's no massive progression for the series to be frank.
It's more a case of the film once again attempting to restart and reboot the franchise and managing to do so in a somewhat at times limp way - so fanboys of this particular genre be aware...
However, there are some truly impressive things within this latest mutant outing.

Firstly Kevin Bacon's Shaw is startlingly good - Bacon's really delivered the acting goods here with menace mixed with charm as well as incredible screen presence. His is the stand out performance of the film without a shadow of a doubt.

Fassbender and McAvoy also deliver the goods but it's Fassbender who is the better actor bringing a dash of danger to the future Magneto as he heads off on his Bond like quest of vengeance; McAvoy's performance is crippled a little by his character's penchant for spouting pompous dialogue and putting two fingers to his forehead every time he uses his telepathy.

Overall, X Men First Class may impress some with its fine acting but fans of the X genre will be disappointed nothing radical is done (aside from some great fanboy pleasing cameos); the rest of us may feel it's time to give the X Men a rest - even though this is rumoured to be the start of a new trilogy.

Extras: Good solid bunch including deleted and extended scenes, behind the scenes of the film

Rating: 7/10 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Anonymous: Movie Review

Anonymous: Movie Review

Anonymous
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Joely Richardson, Rafe Spall, Sebastian Armesto
Director: Roland Emmerich
A political conspiracy thriller done by the guy who's prone to big FX films which blow the White House up?
Yep, that's the gist of Anonymous, a tale which tries to assert the theory that Shakespeare didn't actually write all of that stuff you have to suffer in English classes and pore over for exams.
Set in Elizabethan times, Rhys Ifans stars as Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford who's actually written a whole heap of plays but can't turn his back on his way of life and fight the taboo imposed on writers. When Ben Johnson (Armesto) meets de Vere, the crafty Earl decides that this is the way his work can be performed.
However, when the play's a success, a drunken actor by the name of William Shakespeare (Spall) steps up and claims the credit. But events spiral out of control and along with political machinations, soon seething jealousy and snake pit politics overtake the arts - and against a backdrop of rebellion, the truth becomes harder to realize.
Anonymous is an odd sort of film - while there are flashes of brilliance (such as the visualizations of Elizabethan times and the stunning performances of some of the plays in the Globe which recapture the vibe and thrust of what theatre must have been like in its infancy), there's a lot of stiffness in both the dialogue and characters. Coupled with Emmerich's continual desire to throw in thunder and lightning effects every time there's a confrontation or trouble, there's little subtlety on show here.

Rhys Ifans is watchable as the Earl and Redgrave is impressive as Elizabeth but all in all, Anonymous is as starched as an Elizabethan collar with its over the top premise. I can't say I left giving much credence to the theory Shakespeare was a fraud, but I can say I left feeling a little bit like I was back in school having to get my head around those texts which dogged and troubled my formative years.

Bridesmaids: Blu Ray Review

Bridesmaids: Blu Ray Review

Bridesmaids
Rating: R16
Released by Universal Home Ent

In one of the comedies of the year, Kristen Wiig plays Annie, lifelong friend to Maya Rudolph's Lillian. Annie's a bit of a self saboteur; her bakery business went down the drains and she's got low self esteem from one night stands with Jon Hamm's sleazy Ted.

She's not heading anywhere fast - and when Lillian reveals she's getting married, Annie's given the role of maid of honour.

However, as she begins to plan the wedding, she runs into the social circle of Lillian's friends; one of whom, Helen (Rose Byrne) becomes her nemesis.

So a rivalry is formed - and despite Annie's best attempts, the disagreements and resentment threaten her place in her best friend's wedding...

Bridesmaids is the best kind of R rated film - raucously funny and really rude in places.

From producer Judd Apatow, you'd be expecting something a little close to the edge - but what actually transpires is probably one of the best examples of an all female led frat pack.

There's a series of set pieces here; an awful dinner which leads to a wedding fitting which ends in the worst possible way; a trip to Vegas that sees the girls thrown off the plane; it's some pretty funny stuff - and in a very unexpected way.

It's actually great entertainment for both male and female audiences which is somewhat of a pleasant surprise.

Extras: Bonus features includes gag reels, extended version, commentary and alternate and extended scenes

Rating: 8/10 

Modern Family S2: DVD Review

Modern Family S2: DVD Review

Modern Family: Season 2
Rating: PG
Released by Universal Home Ent

It nabbed a slew of Emmy awards and to be honest, it's easy to see why.

Following 3 families, Modern Family is the first appointment viewing comedy in a very very long time which everyone can enjoy. Rather than being reliant on smut for the laughs, this goes for the smarts and it hits the target every time.

The mockumentary style casts its eye on Mitchell and Cam, the gay fathers trying to find their way, Claire and Phil with their brood of three and family patriarch Jay, who's trying to keep his sexy Cuban wife Gloria and son happy.

It's rare for an entire season of one show to keep you entertained but 24 episodes of this show do just that. Thanks in part to the outstanding ensemble cast and very smart writing, this is one of the shows that's got the magic right from beginning to end.

Extras: Table reads, videos, extended scenes and gag reel - nothing sensational to be honest, but given how good the show is, you can't imagine there'd be much else left to give

Rating: 8/10 

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Killing: DVD Review

The Killing: DVD Review

The Killing
Rating: M
Released by Madman Entertainment

Four years after being first released in native Denmark, and to universal critical acclaim, the 20 part first series of The Killing is released here.

And what a scorching series it is.

Over 20 episodes, a homicide unit follows the killing of 19-year-old woman, Nanna Birk Larsen - by the intrepid Detective Inspector Sarah Lund, who as the series begins is about to leave for Sweden. But as she looks further into the case, the death has serious implications for an ongoing mayoral campaign.

The pilot of The Killing pretty much lays its atmospheric cards out on the table - with iconic backgrounds and Nordic landscapes, it does feel a little like The Millennium Trilogy in tone; but it's its own beast.
It's captivating, engrossing, intelligent and enthralling television at its best with a central protagonist who's prone to wearing chunky jumpers and because of that, ends up in the pantheon of quirky yet brilliant detectives.

Simply put, The Killing needs your time - set aside 20 hours for some of the best TV you'll see - and then beg Madman to release the second series...

Rating: 8/10

Rio: Blu Ray Review

Rio: Blu Ray Review

Rio
Rating: PG
Released by Universal Home Ent

From the creators of Ice Age, it's the story of the last male macaw in the world Blu (voiced with geeky overtones by The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg) who's kidnapped when young from his Brazilian habitat. An accident leads him to be cared for by Linda (Leslie Mann) in Minnesota - and Blu's quite happy in his domesticated lifestyle.

However, when Tulio, from Brazil's department of Conservation shows up on her doorstep, pleading with Linda to let him mate Blu with the last female Macaw Jewel (Anne Hathaway), Blu's life is thrown into disarray.

Dragged to Rio for a romantic liaison, Blu's birdnapped once again - and along with Jewel and a few feathered friends, he's determined to escape back to Linda and the comfort of his normal life.

Colourful, passionate and full of heart, Rio is an animated delight. From its opening song which soars with birds covering the screen in a wealth of vibrant colours, Rio will get you onside right away.
Even if the sight of most of those birds being kidnapped minutes later will terrify the young...

With a story which is sweet but not cloying, Rio manages to move and amuse in equal measures.

Throw in a great performance from Jesse Eisenberg (who's really cornering that geeky style) as bird nerd Blu - and a menacing turn from Jemaine Clement's Nigel, a cockatoo who used to be the in thing but who's now bitter and angry, and you've got the mix for a fun time for all the family at the cinema. Which is a rare thing.

But, it's an all family affair too - from the wondrous animated backdrops of Rio itself to the cast of supporting characters, (monkeys, dogs, toucans, birds) there's plenty for everyone to get lost in here.

The script has smarts too - with witty dialogue, great songs (the stand out of which is Jemaine Clement's bird rap) charm and animation that is easy on the eye and not reliant on 3D, you can't go wrong with Rio.
Rating: 7/10 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Drive: Movie Review

Drive: Movie Review

Drive
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Albert Brooks
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Bathed in acclaim from the Wellington leg of the NZ International Film Festival and from Cannes, this action drama film has a lot to live upto.
And it doesn't disappoint.
Gosling stars as an unnamed stunt driver who finds himself drawn to his neighbour, Irene (Mulligan) and her young son. However, Irene's husband Standard is on the verge of being released from prison - and when he gets released, the seedy underworld catches upto him again.
The driver decides to help Standard do one last job to help rid him of the past - but soon finds himself in a world of trouble.
Violent, slick and masterful and one hell of a ride, Drive is not what you'd expect - which is a great thing.
Beginning with one of the best pre-credits scene in years, it's clear what kind of movie Refn wants to make.
Whereas most action films involving cars and heists throw everything at the screen and often overwhelm with screeching tyres, wailing police sirens and loud explosions, Refn's gone for the more considered and realistic approach - which is greatly beneficial and makes it thrilling from the get go.
Coupled with a steely performance from Gosling as the calm and measured driver, this visceral opening is stylish and suspenseful.
Everyone in this occasionally violent film steps up; Gosling deserves the lion share of the praise but the rest of the cast all bring their A game. Unfortunately though, there seems to be little chemistry between Mulligan and Gosling which is a shame given how pivotal their relationship needs to be to fuel the plot. That said, the ensemble cast are particularly impressive with Bryan Cranston rolling out a very solid, very empathetic performance as the Driver's friend who scores him work; equally, Perlman and Brooks add the level of menace to the crims which comes not only with age but also with experience.
Drive is effortlessly cool and is probably one of the best films of the year - it's not exactly what you'd expect from a heist movie but it's rapidly becoming a classic in the way Bullitt and other films of its ilk were back in the day.

Also, I am painfully aware there's a growing fan movement behind Gosling - and quite frankly, this role will cement a lot of people's opinions of him; be it chewing moodily on a toothpick behind a wheel or wielding a shotgun to take someone down, this is the role which is going to send his star well into the stratosphere.

The Inbetweeners S2: DVD Review

The Inbetweeners S2: DVD Review

The Inbetweeners Season 2
Rating: M
Released by Roadshow and Hopscotch
Back for another year and with a successful film in tow, the four awkward school lads return for more antics of the excruciating kind.
Over the course of six episodes, Will, Jay, Simon and Neil continue to mine as much excruciating discomfort as they can muster - peppered with foul language, puerile humour and occasional outrage. Throw in birthdays for Will, exams and clubbing and to be honest, you've covered much of the horror of the teenage years.
The thing is though with The Inbetweeners, it's so well written, acted and put together, that you can't help but feel for these four loveable losers as they negotiate their way through the teen years, the misery of high school and the drudgery of a lack of acceptance. Every episode has a laugh out loud moment - and it's usually at their expense.
At the end of the day, you can't help but love this series - because through all four of the central characters and all six of the episodes, I bet some of you will recall some of your own horrific school day moments.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Game Review: Ratchet and Clank - All 4 One

Game Review: Ratchet and Clank - All 4 One

Ratchet and Clank - All 4 One
Platform: PS3
Rating: 7/10

The Lombax and his metal buddy return in this latest outing for the phenomenally popular duo.
Ratchet and Clank have had some brilliant outings on the PlayStation and fought some pretty impressive nemesis, but this newest adventure for the duo sees them forced out of retirement - along with President Qwark - to apparently collect the Intergalactic Tool of Justice Award.
However, when the trio arrive on Luminopolis, it's clear it's a trap laid by nemesis Dr Nefarious who's after revenge.
But things go awry, the gang's captured and Nefarious is forced to team up with the three people he's just tried to destroy to ensure they can all escape...
Ratchet and Clank All 4 One is clearly aimed at the co-operative contingent - and it's a nice touch to be able to take control of each of these key characters and their strengths, stupidities and weapons.
In a one player person campaign, the computer takes control of the second player (necessary to complete certain areas of the game) and it's great to report that for once, when the machine's running your helper, the helper actually works really well. There've been other games where a second player is run by the PS3 and they don't end up killing the baddies or doing what they need to and it adds to a real sense of frustration. Thankfully that's not the case here and that automatic co-operation gives you the chance to play the game solo if you're a Norman no-mates and don't fancy going online to get a group together.
That said, the co-operative side of this game can be fun with a group - but it's also got to be said, it gives it some of its drawbacks.
When running around with 4 other players, occasionally the screen can't cope with all the action and suddenly the freedom you had to traverse is cut a little short by the constraints of the environment around. It means some of the time, you can't explore as much as you want and really, you do need to take some control of what the other players are doing.
There's a degree of simplicity to the game as well - some of the puzzles seem aimed more at the younger end of the gaming spectrum and it may be the more hardened gamers will feel a little patronised in places as everything can be solved easily thanks to graphics on screen revealing what buttons need to be pressed and in which order. Whilst it makes the game easier to traverse, it does also mean there's no real challenges to gameplay which is a shame.
Also frustrating is the saving element of the game. Unless you time it right, occasionally you find yourself having to repeat large sections of the game to catch up on where you left off.
These niggles aside, All 4 One is a solid and playable outing for Ratchet and Clank and will give a lot of fun to the family gaming side. It's certainly likely to keep you entertained with hours of solid gameplay and lots of the trademark Ratchet and Clank humour - as well as some beautifully designed environments and cut scenes.

But you can't help feeling that for the next outing, the designers will have to pull something very special out of the bag to ensure the franchise feels fresh.

Water For Elephants: Blu Ray review

Water For Elephants: Blu Ray review

Water for Elephants
Released by 20th Century Fox
Rating: M

RPatz tries to put the vampire sparkle behind him in this adaptation of the Sara Gruen historical novel.

Set in Depression times in America, Pattinson plays Jacob (yes, we're aware of the irony too) a vet student who's about to sit his final exams at Cornell University
However, when his parents are killed in a car accident just moments into his exam, his life changes as he loses everything - not just his family, but his home

So, running away he jumps on a train which turns out to belong to the Benzini Brothers circus troupe.

Convincing the owner August (a mightily impressive Christoph Waltz) that he can contribute and showing his vet knowledge, Jacob is soon welcomed into the upper echelons of the carny society.
However - that also includes an attraction to August's wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) which proves dangerous as August is a brooding man, prone to explosive outbursts and abusing the animals....

Water For Elephants starts off well - the Depression era is brilliantly captured and recreated and the tone is perfectly set for a nice historical love story.
But that's where the problems begin with Water For Elephants.

For a story like this to work, you need to have sizzling chemistry between two leads - and to be frank, Pattinson and Witherspoon have as much chemistry as a wet weekend. And that really lets the tale down and brings the whole thing crashing into an average reality.

While RPatz and Witherspoon fail to bring any real spark, there is some consolation in Waltz. He is fantastic; bringing the horrendous menace and explosiveness needed to an evil man but also showing hints of a man conflicted by his behaviour. Water For Elephants is massively disappointing after such a good set up.
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Thick of It S3: DVD Review

The Thick of It S3: DVD Review

The Thick Of It Season 3
Rating: M
Released by BBC and Roadshow
The ferociously satiric comedy The Thick Of It returns with a slight retooling for its third year's outing.
The jerky camera work's still there and the humour is as dry as ever before but the dynamic's shifted with more of an emphasis on Peter Capaldi's brilliant spin doctor Malcolm Tucker. Once again though, the target is still the ineptitude of politicians, focus groups and petty office squabbles as the election's taken in and backstabbing aplenty reigns.
All in all, this series continues to impress - from Peter Capaldi's great performance of bile and bluster as the spin doctor, there's little to match him on the comedy front. With smart writing from some of the UK's best comedy brains, this really is superlatively intelligent and ferociously funny stuff.
A fourth series is planned for 2012 but for now, there are three series of pure brilliance to fall back into and wallow in the best creative and savage comedy to have come out of the UK in a very long time.

Rating: 7/10