Archive for April, 2009

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I have nothing to say today.

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Doctor Who ‘Planet of the Dead’ Review

As concepts go, putting a double-decker London bus on a sand-covered alien planet is pretty high. As episodes of Doctor Who go, this is one of the lamest.

Opening with a horrendously clichéd thief-takes-valuable-item scene (with guards that don’t look at the object they’re monitoring), the episode moves on to what is writer Russell T Davis’ only good idea for the story – getting The Doctor and a busload of forgettable misfits stranded in a desert.

From here on, roughly nothing happens. At all. Michelle Ryan’s expert thief Lady Christina proves to be bland, boring and contrived. The best part of her character is the magic backpack that holds out every useful item under the sun, like shovels and axes, which she so clearly needed for a rooftop theft.

The pace dies as Tennant’s Doctor tries to liven up scene after scene of boring character introductions and exposition, from explaining how they got to the planet (SPOILER: wormhole), to chatting up the Token Psychic Bus Passenger. Because there’s always a Token Psychic Bus Passenger when The Doctor needs warning about the upcoming Regeneration.

The episode goes from barely watchable to downright intolerable as The Doctor and Christina bump into the worst aliens since the fat penguins – flies in boiler suits. The only conceivable purpose of these characters is to have a crashed ship containing the Token Plot Device Crystal that is needed to get the bus back to earth.

It’s here that a much more interesting story is discovered, discarded and forgotten. There is a storm approaching the bus – a storm made of metal manta rays. If they get through the wormhole, they will turn the earth into a desert, just like they did to the planet they now fly around. Wouldn’t it be a much more interesting episode if the bus turned up in the middle of the city being eaten alive by the manta rays? Why must we be forced to watch this dross instead?

The episode then staggers to its climax, featuring three manta rays escaping to earth behind a terrible CGI flying bus and being shot down by an unusually bloody-minded UNIT. Lee Evans makes a cameo appearance as a comedy bumbling scientist and The Doctor helps Christina escape, for no real reason.

All in all, a very bad start to the year of special episodes. The only saving grace is that Catherine Tate isn’t in it.

1/5

Crank: High Voltage Review

Let’s get one thing out of the way first – Crank: High Voltage is the best film ever made.

Beginning literally seconds after the original, Jason Statham’s harder-than-hell assassin Chev Chelios is scraped off the pavement by Triad gangsters led by Johnny Vang. This leads to Chev’s indestructible heart being replaced by an artificial one with limited battery. That’s the set-up for even more mayhem and destruction than last time around, as Chev has to murderize his way through Latino and Chinese gangs in order to restore his pumper, while keeping his battery constantly topped up.

Make no bones about it; this is a film that completely understands its audience. Within five minutes, Chev has shot four people dead, shoved a shotgun up a gangster’s arse and been told he has a big dick. From then on, the filmmakers stop at absolutely nothing to bring the laughs and action in equal measure up to a face-melting speed that spits in the face of very other action movie ever made.

This is, without a doubt, Statham’s finest hour. He sprints from car smash to shootout without batting an eyelid, always with a slightly self-referential look and constantly giving every frame one hundred and ten percent of his seemingly boundless energy.

And energy is something that this film has in spades. The decision to shoot the entire movie in a fishbowl view – ala a skateboarding video – is a risky move, one that is slightly disorienting fir the first ten minutes, but adds an incredible layer of frenetic energy to the film, giving even the ‘slow’ sections a kick up the arse.

Of course, you can describe a ‘slow’ section in Crank: High Voltage as being ‘without explosions, chases, smashes, crashes or gun battles’. Being a film aimed squarely at ADHD-inflicted twentysomething males, all scenes without violence or explosions feature naked women. You know, in case your mind wanders.

What’s most shocking (pun intended) is that no two scenes are the same. Each set-piece is different to the one before it, with each bringing its own separate laughs, shocks and thrills. The sex scene – taking place at a horse racing track this time – easily rivals most whole comedy films for sheer belly laughs.

In short, Crank: High Voltage is a solid gold masterpiece. The best action movie of the year? Try the last ten. Try the best movie of all time. All Hail Statham!

5/5

Pokémon Platinum Diary: Week 1

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you now – no, paperclip, this is not actually a letter – to inform you of my travels thus far in Pokémon Platinum.

I have not played a Pokémon game in some twelve years, since the dawn of Red and Blue, as the first wave of hysteria gripped the hearts and minds of the young and warped them into collecting every single item, nick-knack and collectable that had the Pokémon branding emblazoned proudly across it.

Needless to say, the age group that was most afflicted in this frenzy of marketing was my own. I was there, on the front lines, Pokémon cards in hand, stored next to the Pokémon figurines, playing the Pokémon game in my lunch breaks at school, trading, swapping, battling…

By the time Gold and Silver were released, I had already freed myself of the grip of the one hundred and fifty strange-looking beasts. I had gone on to bigger, but not necessarily better, games. My time in that first region remained dear to my heart, my Pokédex compete of all one hundred and fifty (one!) monsters.

Precisely one week ago, I decided to ‘get back in the game’, as I suppose one’s children are wont to say, and purchased a copy of the newest Pokémon game, entitled Platinum. One wonders what other jewels and colours there are in the world left for Nintendo to name their games after!

The first thing I noticed was that very little had changed. You are still given the choice of three starting monsters, each with a different ‘type’ – grass, water and fire. You still have a rival – even though he is a friend this time, I still found him to be rather odious – and he still chooses the Pokémon type that is technically superior to yours. The Pokémon themselves still can only learn and use four moves, keeping the state of play incredibly simple and very complex – do you want your monster to specialise in one type of attack, or do you want it to be fair and balanced?

Naturally, the first Pokémon I chose was all three. Trading with a friend is still possible from the off, allowing you both to obtain all three Pokémon each. The downside is, it takes roughly six hours – quite the downside, I’m sure you will agree.

The things that have changed in the past twelve years and fifteen games are that you can now choose the sex of your character. This invariably changes the sex of your rival and of your love interest, who chooses the Pokémon that is weakest to yours. Also, there are now double battles, where you can team up with another trainer and take down two Pokémon at the same time.

Aside from that, the gameplay is largely unchanged. Aside from the obvious additions to the Pokémon roster – there now appear to be four hundred and ninety three Pokémon.

I have been investigating the Sinnoh region for twelve hours in the past week and have seen forty two, captured twenty seven Pokémon.

I am completely addicted to this game again.

Until next time, gentlemen.

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Sunday Funday: because Jack takes a week to draw a single page. Today’s comic by Nikki. Thanks darlin’.