Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Just adding some articles from Movie-Moron:

Resident Evil: Damnation Review
Resident Evil: Retribution Review
Skyfall Review

I was also invited to take part in a critical dissection of each Bond actor’s best and worst movies, joining in at the Dalton years. The first article is here:

007: Best of Dalton – The Living Daylights

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Is there anything left to say about Ocarina of Time? The game is almost fifteen years old now and has appeared on the N64, GameCube and Wii since then. Surely any power it once had has been diminished by repeat showings, and this latest re-release can only be indicative of the 3DS’s struggle to find its own ‘killer app’.

Or so you’d think. As it turns out, there’s a lot of life left in Ocarina, widely regarded – and rightly so – as the greatest game of all time. The game’s ability to surprise might have been diminished in the thirteen years since its release – the plot twist is the gaming equivalent of ‘I am your father’ – but it’s lost none of its power to leaving players gasping in awe.

If you’ve already played it, you don’t need to the story recapping. If you haven’t, then you are the envy of all the others. You have no idea what awaits you – the scale of the quest, the incredible bosses, the spellbinding music, the dizzying dungeons and temples – everything here feels as fresh as it did on that day in 1998.

Except it’s been given a lick of paint, thanks to the development team at Grezzo. Nintendo’s masterpiece has never looked as good as it does here. Facial animations have been updated, characters now look exactly like the pre-release art detailed them, backgrounds are no longer blurry and distant, textures are sharp and clear and everything looks so real you can almost touch it. The Master Sword now sits in gloomy darkness with a single mystical light thrown down from an overhead window – the sight of which brings shivers of anticipation. The game looks like it could have been made yesterday. Jabu-Jabu’s Belly has never looked so slimy.

On top of this, Grezzo have thrown in a few new features. Completing the game once unlocks the staggering challenge of the Master Quest, which is now even harder than before. Not only are the puzzles more difficult, but enemies deal more damage and everything in the game is mirrored. The other new feature is the excellent Boss Rush mode, activated by going to sleep in Link’s bed. Here you are challenged to fight all the bosses again, one after the other, in one sitting. It’s an outstanding feature, especially given that many of Ocarina’s bosses remain some of the greatest in the series’ history.

Grezzo have even found a way to put the gyroscope to good use. You can now tilt the 3DS to look around at an area, aim with the bow and search for targets with the hookshot. While this may be an acquired taste – for instance, horseback archery is a damn sight harder this way – for many it will present a fun new possibility, and it’s faster to use.

As for the 3D effect, this is perhaps its most staggering use yet. The vast expanse of Hyrule Field, the scale of the bosses, leaping from Zora’s waterfall, making the jump across Gerudo Valley on horseback – these sights were all amazing the first time around. Seeing them in 3D is even greater.

Of course, none of these improvements would mean a thing if the game underneath them wasn’t so good. Ocarina might be showing its age a bit now, with some clunky puzzles, gameplay that was refined even more by the next three titles, the irritating guardian fairy pointing out the obvious every five minutes, but the sheer sense of joy is totally unrivalled. The game is older than most whole franchises, yet the title screen alone still strikes a chord and floods the player with waves of nostalgia. There is nothing on earth like this.

Should you buy Ocarina? Yes, undoubtedly. If you’ve played every single re-release to date, this might be a tough sell as there’s little new here except for a change of depth. However, this is the best version of the best game of all time. If you’ve ever wondered how close games have come to perfection, this is proof.

99%

Iron Man 2 Review

‘Sequels never better the first film,’ says the movie bible. Sure, there are rare exceptions – Aliens, Terminator 2, Hannah Montana 2: Crimson Massacre, etc – but the rule remains true. This rule, however, does not seem to apply to comic book movies, where the sequel – freed from the shackles of the origin story – is nearly always better than the first film. Iron Man 2 keeps this proud tradition alive.

Just a few short months have passed since Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) revealed himself as Iron Man and the world has never been more peaceful. However, dark forces are gathering against ol’ tin head. One the one side, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), son of the man who helped Tony’s father Howard invent the original Arc Reactor. Bitter and vengeful, Vanko creates his own Arc Reactor and electric whips, becoming the villain Whiplash. On the other side, the defence department, who demand the Iron Man suit be turned over to the military. If Stark refuses, they are more than willing to turn to industry rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell).

But that’s not the end of Stark’s troubles. The palladium core that keeps the shrapnel from entering his heart is now poisoning his blood. Faced with his own mortality, Stark goes off the rails, making Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) the CEO, alienating Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and drinking heavily. There’s also the small matter of Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), Pepper’s new secretary who seems to know a surprising amount of martial arts…

If that synopsis sounds overstuffed then that’s because it is. Iron Man 2 is packed to the gills with new characters, new situations and more things going on. Even director Jon Faverau’s cameo as bodyguard Happy Hogan is extended to four times the length it was in the first film.

In spite of that, Iron Man 2 is a consistent delight, providing spectacle, action, warmth, wit and humour in a tidy package that manages to avoid outstaying its two hour long welcome. The story moves along with the speed of a freight train, cramming in a ridiculous number of ideas and scenes with style and aplomb. One minute Tony Stark is single-handedly defeating the defence department with a few carefully chosen words, the next he’s battling Whiplash in the middle of the Monaco Grand Prix. The pace of the scripting, incredibly, manages to keep everything in check and simultaneously hit all the plot points that a film should – acts 1, 2 and 3 are all very clearly defined.

The downsides are many, unfortunately. The sheer number of things going on in the film means that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow doesn’t actually have anything to do until the very end, while Whiplash’s backstory and reason for hating Stark is given an incredibly brief five minute explanation in the prologue. There are also only two fights with Whiplash in the entire film and both of those are pitifully short. The few memories Stark has of his father feel a little ham-fisted and lightweight in their attempt to add depth to the drama and really needed expanding. Also, Samuel L Jackson’s appearances as Nick Fury are too few and too short – he needs to have a much bigger role in the expanding universe.

Still, for all of those complaints, there are just as many incredible things to like. Tony Stark is still the only superhero just as interesting outside the costume as he is in it, there’s twice as much humour on offer and about ten times the action. Jon Favreau is clearly a director who can direct ballsy action scenes and the weight of the cast beneath him are talented enough to carry the human drama.

It might not be close to perfect, but Iron Man 2 has a lot to like about it. Bigger, badder, tougher, funnier and more exciting than the first one. Perhaps the rule should be changed to, ‘sequels never better the first film – unless the film is a comic book adaptation.’

4 stars

508: The Hungry Earth

Another episode that really could be far better than it is. Unfortunately, it’s held back by both budget and imagination.

Attempting to arrive in Rio, the Doctor has completely missed and instead winds up in the Welsh countryside in 2020. Happily for him, while he might have missed a festival, he’s arrived just in time to find the world’s most ambitious drilling project and it’s just passed twenty one kilometres. As you might have already guessed, success comes at a price – there’s something living beneath the earth and it’s really pissed off to be underneath the drill…

It starts off so promisingly with a really creepy idea – that the earth could open up and swallow you whole. Unfortunately, it goes downhill after that with a few clunky characters, some hokey horror elements and a really crap monster.

There are a few really good bits in here like the preparation for the attack, the way the monsters close off the village with a shield bubble, the villagers’ conversation with the captured monster-thing and the final, totally unexpected, cliffhanger.

It’s a shame that the rest of it is just so average. The characters don’t really have anything to do, Amy’s time on screen is spent channelling the spirit of Catherine Tate and Rory lacks any of the early charisma that made his interactions with the Doctor so enjoyable.

On the whole, while this isn’t a terrible episode, it’s definitely not a great one. It’s enjoyable, but you’ll have to completely switch off to make the most of it.

6/10

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars Review

After the soul-crushing disappointment of ‘Planet of the Dead’, Russell T Davis has his work cut out for him. Can he deliver just a few more hours of on-form Doctor Who before David Tennant steps out of the Time Lord’s shoes?

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Well, actually, yes. There’s a hell of a lot to like in this latest one-off episode and, for once, it’s an episode built on ideas instead of stupid one-note weird images (see also: London bus in a desert.)

After being warned last time by a psychic that his death was approaching and will be heralded with ‘four knocks’, the Doctor heads off to Mars for a think. Unfortunately, he arrives at the first Mars human colony on November 21st 2059 – the exact date the base was destroyed with no survivors. This sees the Doctor facing his most agonising decision yet: will he interfere with history even knowing that the colonist’s deaths are the reason the human race made its push out into the wider universe?

From the off, there’s very little slack in what could have been an incredibly dreary and tedious episode. Within five minutes the Monsters of the Week (this time it’s water that infects people, causing their eyes and mouths to go all weird and water to start leaking from their mouths) have been introduced and the body count begins to rise. The quick pace is kept up throughout, with Tennant’s Doctor coming across, for once, as genuinely defeated for the first 45 minutes, while the CGI is both impressive and kept to a minimum. Even the episode’s superbly dark ending is well handled and believable – possibly a first since the third series ended.

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It’s not perfect and there are a few problems. Firstly, there is – as always – far too much running up and down blank corridors and the music is unnecessarily overly dramatic in the early parts of the episode. While the enemies are suitably creepy, the idea that they can squirt water from their wrists and mouths does more to lessen them than anything else and the shuddering as the virus takes over its victims is just plain silly. The Doctor’s final decision seems to come in far too late to be of any good and when it does he instantly reverts back to that oh-so-annoying insane gurning buffoon, which, after the preceding ten minutes, is a very strange change of pace indeed. Moreover, the episode rips off wholesale Aliens, Event Horizon and 28 Days Later without really adding much of its own and the less said about the ‘comedy’ sidekick robot the better. One for the kids there, perhaps.

That said, the Doctor’s turn to the dark side is both wonderful and believable – if only they didn’t spend the last minute of screen time undoing that, this would be truly excellent. As it stands, it’s a welcome return to form and a huge sigh of relief as we head into Tennant’s final farewell. Just don’t bring Catherine Tate back to – oh. Jesus, no.

3 stars

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The first Transformers was a hit-and-miss affair, saved by some outstanding CGI robots and a few cracking action scenes. With that seemingly in mind, Michael Bay has pulled out all the stops this time and has come back with a film containing more action than dialogue.

Picking up a few years after Megatron was killed with the All-Spark, Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is going to college and continuing his improbable relationship with Mikaela (Megan Fox), while the Autobots hunt down Decepticons alongside NEST, the soldiers from the last movie. Unfortunately for everyone on Earth, the Decepticons manage to find and reawaken Megatron, who wants to bring his master, The Fallen, down to our planet.

To be honest, the plot is just an excuse for more robots to brawl in various cities around the world. Opening with a bombastic chase scene that is a) better than the finale battle of the last film and b) more visible, it sets a good standard for the rest of the film.

Unfortunately, there is so much going on outside the action that all the characters and dialogue is excruciating, from LaBeouf’s boring Sam, to the unfunny supporting characters, to the horrifyingly racist Twins to Megan Fox’s character that changes so often it seems that every line was written by a different person.

The action is great, but done so often it can leave you completely hollow: once you’ve seen one robot punch another, you’ve seen everything this film has to show you. Also, with the exception of a scant few, all the Transformers look identical again, while the sheer number of toys to be shifted leaves robots walking in and out of shot with no explanation.

It’ll satisfy the kids and fans of explosions, but nobody else – after all, that’s what Bay does best, right?

2/5.