Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

How to Train Your Dragon 3D Review

Dragons and films don’t tend to go together very well. Just look at the evidence – Dragonheart, Reign of Fire, Dungeons and Dragons and Eragon – all rubbish and mostly featuring Jeremy Irons. It seems that up until now, cinema and dragon-based adventures are incompatible. Luckily, How to Train Your Dragon is here to make a case for the defence.

Hiccup is a young, accident-prone Viking, living among his people on a remote island that suffers from a dragon problem. In order to prove himself a man, Hiccup must slay a dragon, but he doesn’t want just any old beast, he wants to bring down the Night Fury, the most legendary lizard of them all.

However, in his attempts to capture the Night Fury, Hiccup accidentally wounds it, leading to an unlikely friendship and a shocking discovery – that the entire Viking way of life is totally wrong.

What starts out as an affable kids’ film about a buffoon and his loveable dragon companion, there’s a hell of a lot to like here. For one, the animation is superb throughout. How to Train You Dragon might not be the most visually stunning animated film ever, but what’s on offer is great – visual expressions, dragon design, the Viking’s fur coats – all topped off with some of the best animated action in any movie.

The film’s real strength is that the characters within it are really good, with just enough depth in them to get by. Hiccup’s journey is totally believable and the way his changing attitude towards dragons alters the minds of those around him is also convincing. There’s just enough time between big aerial flight scenes and friendship montages to squeeze all this in, creating a film that can sometimes feel too crowded and ambitious for what it’s trying to do.

While most of the characters are pretty good and the visual look of each dragon is staggeringly varied, the dialogue can be horrendously clunky. There’s too much of a tendency for characters to say what they’re feeling, which leaves the rest of the story disappointingly predictable.

While it’s not as funny as it could be, there are a few laughs here and there to be had, but most of the time you’ll be busy marvelling at the excellent action scenes, an effect that is magnified with the use of 3D technology. It creates a great illusion of being close to the combat – quite an achievement for a kids’ film about a buffoon and his dragon.

Kids will love the fantasy, adults will like the animation. If the characters were slightly deeper and the laughs were more frequent, this would be one for everyone. As it is, it’s just going to have to settle for being a crowd-pleaser.

3 stars

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Kick Ass Review

Superheroes wouldn’t survive long in today’s world. It’s fine for Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men and the like to preach about not killing their enemies, but it wouldn’t solve anything. Evil should be eliminated, not scolded – maybe the Punisher got it right.

Here to evolve the idea of a superhero is Dave Lizewski, (Aaron Johnson) a high school student whose only reaction to crime is to want to kick its arse. After having enough of being robbed at school, mugged on the street and standing by as the same is done to others, Dave buys a wetsuit online and becomes the superhero vigilante Kick Ass.

Unfortunately for Dave, the only real powers he has are courage and a slightly elevated pain threshold – he can’t even weild his baton weapons effectively. However, that doesn’t matter after he’s filmed standing up to a group of thugs – Kick Ass becomes an instant internet hit, a symbol of truth in a world of lies.

Sadly, this is just the beginning of Dave’s problems as there are already two superheroes operating in secret – ex-cop Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his arse-kicking daughter Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). The two are sworn enemies of drug baron Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a loner who chooses to become supervillain Red Mist. Worse still, Dave’s love interest Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) believes him to be gay.

There is no part of this film that doesn’t work. Absolutely everything is pitch-perfect – the casting, acting, directing, editing, writing, costumes, sound, music, design – all of it is completely brilliant, utterly hilarious and one hundred percent convincing.

Every character is fully three dimensional, with depth, personality and traits oozing out of every pore. It’s a story made up of stories, with all the cast combining to form a wonderfully satisfying whole. The good guys are likeable and sympathetic, the bad guys detestable yet motivated and even non-costumed characters Clark Duke and Even Peters provide non-stop laughs with their very presence. Particular stand-outs include Big Daddy’s twisted and hilarious, yet ultimately believable and loving relationship with Hit-Girl, as well as Chris’ utterly convincing character arc. Massive props, too, to the burly bouncer played by wrestler Nelson Frasier Jr, whose every line is hysterical.

The plot is mature and intelligent, seeing Kick Ass accidentally getting dragged into a world he’s not ready or prepared for. Everything in it makes sense and it rattles along with the speed of a runaway freight train – not bad for a film weighing in at just under two hours.

The best part is the sense of realism that surrounds the whole thing. The best shot, the best fighter, the strongest, the fastest, the smartest always win, no exceptions. A child, couldn’t fist fight an adult in real life and the same is true here, only much funnier and more violent.

It’s an examination of what it really means to be a superhero. Is it about standing up for what’s right or is it about killing those that do wrong? The film suggests that both answers are right, depending on the severity of the crime. It’s a thoughtful note, one that aids to deepen the intelligence of a movie that, on the surface, doesn’t appear to have many brains about it.

If there is one small complaint to make, it’s that some people might be put off by the hyperviolence commited by children. But then again, if the sight of an eleven year old girl slaughtering legions of goons doesn’t tickle you, then the glory of Kick Ass is not for you.

Funnier than most comedies, more exciting than most actioners, this is Kick Ass, hands down the film to beat this year.

5 stars

Shutter Island Review

A film directed by Martin Scorsese, the World’s Greatest Living Director (™), is always cause for celebration, and this is something entirely new – Scorsese’s first proper attempt at making a true horror film (not including Cape Fear).

US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to the remote mental asylum facility of Shutter Island to figure out how child murderer Rachel Solonda managed to escape from a locked cell. Unfortunately for them, all they meet are brick walls in the guise of Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley). The Marshals are very quickly forced to ask questions of what is really going on behind the scenes. Where is the missing patient? Why are the patients afraid of the lighthouse? Why is a Nazi scientist present at the institution? The answers are extremely troubling.

If that plot summary didn’t sound like anything like a horror, then that’s because it isn’t. in fact, Shutter Island isn’t remotely frightening, terrifying or psychological. Whether this is because of the source material, the director’s relative inexperience with the genre or simple mis-marketing, it’s not clear. The truth of the matter is that Shutter Island is a mystery film with horror framing – merely used for decorative purposes, instead of the focus.

The film still packs a mighty punch, expertly layering mystery upon mystery, clue upon clue, weaving a delicate pattern of intrigue designed to keep the viewer guessing for the duration. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is and thus most – but not all – of the mystery can be unravelled well in advance of the climax.

As you’d expect from a film carrying the Scorsese (™) brand, the film is often visually stunning and breathtakingly beautiful. Daniels’ many terrible flashbacks and haunting dreams are given incredible power via the director’s eye for detail. Indeed, after some of the scenes featured here, it might be wise for Scorsese to consider a World War Two picture as his next film.

The acting, too, is exemplary throughout, with every scene, every question, ever nuance and mystery completely depending on the earnestness of the actors. As always, Leonardo DiCaprio is nothing less superb while Mark Ruffalo provides equally stellar support. Ben Kingsley manages to claw back a huge amount of respect after Thunderbirds, Bloodrayne and The Love Guru. Jackie Earl Hayley makes the most of a single scene as a chance to prove why he’s one of the fastest-rising names in film at the moment.

But despite the wealth of incredible talent on offer, the film is missing something crucial: emotional investment. There’s a strange sense of detachment that pervades most of the film and seeps through every frame, distancing the audience from the characters. Even though Daniels has seen unimaginable horrors – all of which are handled with expert precision – it still feels weirdly unreal an inaccessible.

Overall, not a bad experience, but not a scary one. As good as the names in it, but not as deep as it should be.

3 stars

Escape

The rain begins to come down harder, the skies a dull grey. The sound of the rain slashing down all around fills our ears, making it impossible to hear anything other than the water pounding on the ground and the foliage with an angry thumping.
We’re moving quickly but cautiously, unable to see or hear any creatures that might be laying in wait. We’re following the route to Canalave City, but keeping off the road itself, hoping there are no sentries posted anywhere. So far, we haven’t seen a single monster since we escaped from the swamp.
Dawn follows me, that same cloudy look in her eyes. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever snap her out of this. She’s barely said two words in the past four hours, even though I’ve tried to talk to her. I don’t blame her. There’s nothing really to talk about. We didn’t know each other before this and I doubt anything will change that. We’ll both spend the rest of our goddamn lives in therapy, assuming we get to a boat and leave here alive. I just want her to know that I don’t hate her for what she did to me. If things were the other way around, I don’t think I would have had it in me to save her life.
‘I’m thirsty.’
I barely hear Dawn’s plea over the pounding of the rain. I stop and duck down beneath the line of sight of the road.
I hand Dawn the backpack and she hunts through it for one of the bottles of water we scavenged. She takes a few gulps and puts it back in the bag, then looks at me blankly.
‘You feeling okay?’ I ask; frightened by how pale and out of it she looks.
She nods and stands back up. ‘We need to get out of here.’
I try to place a hand on her shoulder, to calm her down, assure her that everything will be okay, but the arm I extend to her is missing its hand. She looks away from, her face unreadable.
I reshoulder the pack and start walking again, pushing through the overhanging branches and the foot-long grass.
I can see something on the horizon, but I’m not entirely sure what. It’s mixing with the grey sky and the rain-
‘Smoke!’ Dawn’s voice rises above the thunderous downpour this time and I hear her clearly, my own heart stopping in sheer terror in my chest.
We start running, the branches and leaves whipping viciously at us, leaping over the fallen stumps of trees and the pools of water that threaten to suck our feet in and trip us up.
The world blurs past in a green flash, the rain falling on our faces in a stinging dance. I wipe them from my eyes before the water blinds me completely.
Dawn’s footsteps crash down behind me and we’re drawing closer to the column of smoke-
Oh, please don’t let it be-
Don’t let it be coming from-
Canalave-
We come to the top of a hill and gaze down at what was once the port town of Canalave City.
Fire burns in the destroyed Pokémon Centre, unimpeded by the harsh rain. The buildings are crumbling, surrounded by dozens of vicious monsters that repeatedly batter them. People run wildly, trying desperately to escape the carnage, but are easily caught. I can see people being torn apart by the monsters, trampled, eaten alive, crushed, burned, shocked and beaten. There’s so much violence and carnage it’s hard to take it all in.
People are running for a boat, a ship, the last vessel out of Saigon. The ship has already left the harbour, people clinging to the sides, the decks are rammed solid, the anchor being hauled up with people holding on to the chain for dear life.
‘No,’ Dawn whispers, her voice breaking.
I grab her hand and hold it tightly in mine, afraid that she might suddenly run down there for whatever reason. It’s pointless, though. She’s frozen to the spot too, knowing that the horror unfolding bellow will continue regardless.
The ship starts powering up its engines, pushing itself further away from the carnage on the shore when a huge wave erupts from the water.
The enormous head of a Wailord lifts above the waves, its whale song sounding louder than all the chaos. It slowly looks at the fleeing ship. It brings its tail above the sea, water cascading off its rubbery skin.
The tail comes down on the bow of the ship with the force of a meteor. Water launches into the air as though a bomb has detonated underneath it. The ripple sends torrents of water crashing towards the shores, the waves swallowing up all the people standing on the edge. Hundreds of people are sucked from the shore, becoming small, thrashing black dots in the water. If I could hear over the rain, I know I’d hear screams of terror.
The ship tilts lazily in the water, the bow crushed into oblivion, the hull slipping rapidly below the waves. As it glides beneath the water, the dark shape of the steel vanishes in the inky darkness of the sea.
Red pools begin to spread out across the waves, the dots sinking below the surface.
There are hundreds of people in the sea. I try to think about all the different sea creatures that might be swimming towards them. Carvanha. Sharpedo. Walimer. Wailord. Barboach. Whiscash. Feebas. Milotic. Spheal. Sealeo. Walrein. Clamperl. Huntail. Gorebyss. All those teeth and poisonous edges.
I turn my back on the destruction, hoping that Dawn won’t see me cry.
She still stares out at the carnage, unmoving, unblinking, unreadable.
She lets go of my hand and turns away.
We are trapped here.

The old boy’s unemployment has seen him completing a hell of a lot of games. It’s good for something, I guess.

ARCHIVES

New Light

We sit in the broken house, the last remains of our warm fire dwindling to nothingness. The grey light of dawn breathes gently over the morning air and outside the morning fog begins to lift over the smashed houses that we’ve been hiding in for the past few days.
We’ve washed ourselves clean in the many downpours that threatened to drown the buildings. We’ve clothed ourselves in whatever we could acquire from the wardrobes and cupboards of the homeowners. In spite of everything, I feel at least vaguely refreshed.
Dawn hasn’t been the same since I found her. I wasn’t expecting her to be the same girl – happy, smiley, faintly flirtatious and bubbling. After all, this is a different world now. The animals we once raised as our friends and allies have become bloodthirsty killers, demented murderers one and all. She’s been attacked and had all her worldly possessions destroyed. On top of that, she’s managed to cut off my infected hand and cauterise the wound. It’s not surprising she’s changed.
It’s the look in her eyes that scares me the most. The light that once shone behind them is dimmed and dulled, like a light bulb that has lost its power. She is quieter, like she’s always deep in thought. I don’t know if there’s any way I can shake her out of this funk.
‘We need to go,’ I say, my breath fogging.
‘Where?’ Dawn asks. She sounds like she’s given up already and the sound of it terrifies me.
‘We should go to the coast. Maybe we can get a boat out of here,’ I reply.
She shrugs. ‘What if there are Pokémon there?’ Her voice cracks slightly as she says the word ‘Pokémon’. Christ, I need her to be strong right now. I don’t have the energy for all of this.
‘We’ll get past them,’ I say, trying to sound as determined as possible, as though we could put up an actual fight, instead of my real plan, which involved lots of hiding.
I stand up slowly, fearing that I should fall down and lose all her confidence.
It has begun to drizzle softly. I take a couple of coats the homeowners left behind in the chaos of the first night and put one on. I throw the other at Dawn’s feet and collect the backpack of supplies we’ve assembled from the remnants of the houses.
‘Come on,’ I say as I walk out into the morning light and look up at the rising fog.
Far away, a dim rainbow hangs in the morning air. I smile grimly, knowing that it’s hovering in the direction I’m planning to go. Pots of gold…
Dawn puts a hand on my shoulder, shaking me out of my thoughts. I turn to meet her.
We look at each other, two figures shrouded in morning mist, light rain flecks covering our clothes.
She drops her gaze and says nothing. There’s nothing to say. I smile at her as warmly as I can and take her hand.
We set off, heading west to the port city of Canalave. There must be a way to escape this nightmare…

411 – The Fifth Stage

So this is it. This is the last episode of Heroes for the year. And, if the current pacing is anything to go on, it’s got to be a massive ‘up’ episode, right? It’s got to go out with a bang, leave the audience wanting more, right?

FUCK YOU.

NOTHING HAPPENS. NOTHING IS RESOLVED. Everything is left completely open and up in the air. This is nothing like the last three Volumes, where the story was neatly resolved and tied up before the break, forcing viewers to really want to know what happens.

This time around, Samuel sends a Multiplier around to Bennett’s, where the old man is busy wooing Lauren, to steal a file. This is not resolved.

Sylar tracks down Peter for the FINAL CATACLYSMIC SHOWDOWN. Except we’re cheated out of it for the THIRD time as wonder boy Petrelli has taken the Haitian’s power and what could have been a brilliant climax is instead dropped down to a shitty fistfight. Nathan finally dies (or does he? PLEASE KRING GIVE US MORE NATHAN AND SYLAR BEING THE SAME PERSON) but Sylar gets away. This is not resolved.

The main bulk is given to Claire’s slow, painful and tedious tour of Samuel’s carnival, where she finally, after an ENTIRE EPISODE of wandering around and discussing things with Gretchen, decides to join them. This is left hanging.

Nothing is resolved. What happened to Parkman? What happened to Ando and Kimiko? What happened to Mohinder? What happened to Hiro? What happened to Emma? Kring doesn’t seem to care anymore.

Once Heroes was a magnificent show that entertained millions with incredible special effects, a cracking storyline and some top characters. Now it’s a piece of shit that delights in smearing faeces all over its viewers and cackles while it’s doing it.

If this is how the show chooses to end, not with a bang, but with a whimper, then it doesn’t deserve to come back next year and continue abusing its audience. It’s done. It’s come, it’s gone, it’s soared, it’s hit rock bottom, and now it’s over. Goodbye, all that promise.

1 star