Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Book of Life: Film Review

The Book of Life: Film Review

Vocal Cast: Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman, Kate del Castillo, Ice Cube, Christina Applegate
Director: Jorge R Gutierrez

Imagine an animation where Tim Burton's Gothic sensibilities met with portions of computer Grim Fandango's aesthetics and the whole thing was meshed together with an infusion of Mexican culture and heritage as well as filtered through Guillermo Del Toro's eyes...

That in a nutshell is The Book of Life.

A story within a story, The Book of Life is the story of childhood pals Manolo (Luna) and Joaquin (Tatum) whose lives are intertwined by their love for Maria (Saldana). Their push and pull relationship catches the eye of two gods, La Muerte (Del Castillo) and Xibalba (Perlman) and forms the basis of a wager; if Maria chooses Manolo, La Muerte wins and if Joaquin wins her heart, Xibalba is triumphant....

The Book of Life is an unusual animation.

Its fiesta of Mexican culture, colours and vistas is a real blast to the eyes, and a sign that something different has been transposed to the screen as this Day of The Dead story is exposed to perhaps more culturally ignorant viewers.

Throw in some mariachi music themes of current stylings (such as Radiohead's Creep and Mumford and Sons I Will Wait) and you've got somewhat of a pinata of cinema that bursts vibrantly as it's cracked open on the big screen.

Utilising ancient Mexican mythology and fusing it with old Greek stories such as the Ancient Gods' squabbles and an Orpheus-like Quest are just the icing on this cake - which is perhaps just as well as the story isn't quite as strong as it could be, feeling in parts like it's been stretched somewhat thin.

The animation is sumptuous; a veritable pot pourri of wooden puppet CGI creatures mixes with the aforementioned Grim Fandango aesthetics when the movie heads to the Land of The Remembered to brilliant visual effect; purples, greens and other hues burst from the screen to make the resulting film feel like something we've never seen before.

Tatum adds another string to his acting bow as the animated blowhard Joaquin; Saldana brings wide-eyed sultry to Maria and Luna leads an everyday appeal as the sensitive bullfighter who can't kill but can deliver a killer tune. Perlman, del Castillo shine as Xibalba and La Muerte and Applegate blends it all together as the narrator / story hook.

The only bum note is adding in Ice Cube - his involvement seems to pander to the kids purely as his duffle-headed comments and goofball sensibilities sing out from the screen. It's a rare moment that misfires but sours part of this spicy mix.

All in all, The Book of Life is a vibrant chapter of different animation; its story may not be the strongest, but its visuals sing loudly from the screen and proffer something entirely - and welcomely - different.


Monday, 30 March 2015

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Preview

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Preview

Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PS4

I'll admit it - I've never been a player of the Final Fantasy series.

So it's perhaps fair to say that this makes me the target demo for Final Fantasy XV in some weird way because its legion of fans will already buy the game, but its success will lie in a wider audience embracing it.

With the game being in development since 2006, it's fair to say there's nearly a decade's worth of expectation hanging on this title and plenty of speculation over what may be ahead. As ever, with a demo (which is essentially what Episode Duscae is) it's hard to gauge where exactly this comes in the story point and at what stage of the game your character is.

It's possibly fair to surmise that it's early on, given how much combat training you're exposed to in the early stages of the demo before you head off to explore the open-world around you.

You control Noctis along with his friends Ignis, Prompto and Gladiolus - and as the game begins, you're waking up having been in need of getting your car serviced (for reasons unknown). But this work doesn't come for free and you need to find a fairly high amount of cash to ensure the work's done. So the group decides to hunt a bounty on a Behemoth to get rich quick.

Essentially, Episode Duscae feels like an open world ready to explore with these boyband look-alikes.

A lot of the demo is spent with Noctis fighting against Gladiolus, getting trained ostensibly for what lies ahead. It's all about reacting and working to the fight as well, harnessing the right moment to attack or to hang back and defend. Warping to points and warping to attack enemies gives you the boost of XP but saps your MP, and too much fighting leaves Noctis struggling for breath, wandering woozily around and prone to attacks without any ability to get back in the game.

Unlike previous Final Fantasies which have been turn-based, this combat is continual, with pressing down the square button, using a combination of L1 to defend being the best way to take on those opposed to you.

Once the basics of combat are unleashed and your training's complete, it's out into the real world (well, sort of) in Duscae's open world terrain, which is exceptional in many ways.

Graphically, thanks to the creatures littered around, it feels like you're taking a walk through Jurassic Park in the foliage, flanked by relatively harmless animals. But walk too close to them, and a red bar starts to stretch across your screen indicating combat is imminent. Fighting the creatures is relatively easy (simply hold square down to achieve continual kills) but a horde of too many can be difficult to match. My first encounter was with Sabretusks who were relatively tame and offered little resistance; the same cannot be said for robotic knights of the Imperial order who appeared from a drop ship to make my life somewhat chaotic thanks to their inability to die easily.

Setting up camp to rest after the melee of completed combat brought a relative respite to it all and a chance to see a series of side quests being offered for amusement within the open world. I'm hoping for a little more on the characterisation as the early interaction of the group feels a little forced and false with some terribly cliched and average dialogue peppering it all.

Final Fantasy XV offers some hope of something a little different; early word is that FF purists may have a few issues with what's ahead but it could also be a sign of something different for the franchise - either way we'll know when it releases very soon.


The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water: Film Review

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water: Film Review

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown, Matt Berry
Director: Paul Tibbitt

Proving you don't necessarily need to have a message to tout, the animated antics of Spongebob Squarepants on the big screen is nothing more than being here for a zany time.

It's back to Bikini Bottom for a second time in this latest that blends time travel, real life and animated antics into one zany goofball fritter.

It all starts when maligned restaurant owner Plankton tries to make off with Krusty Krabs' secret formula. Continually annoyed that the Krabby patties keep flying out of the doors, Plankton's determined to get his paws on it, and somehow manages to succeed.

However, that brings around the apocalypse (complete with bondage gear for Mr Krabs) and suddenly, Spongebob's world is transformed when he has to work with Plankton to reinstate what relative order there was before.

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water is little more than zaniness thrown together with some touches of surreality.

If you're a fan of the Sponge, you'll know what to expect, and to be frank, this is nothing more than an extended episode of the show with a plot stretched so thin, it's practically non-existent. Instead, a series of brightly coloured gags, moments and insanity is poured forth from the screen in a non-stop barrage of lunacy aimed at winning you over.

Mixing in some of Ren and Stimpy's visuals works for the flick, and Antonio Banderas' live action performance as a pirate that's hiding more than you realise, there's little to rail against as the story pours forth. The simple message is one of teamwork, but to be frank, it's neither here nor there as the time passes. Though the motif of the story within a story nicely collides together at the end of the piece, in a touch that's welcome but hardly original.

Nods to The Shining, The Avengers and Mad Max all play out fine; but at the end of the day, this is a film that hits its nadir with the moment when Matt Berry appears and voices a dolphin from the future who shoots a laser from his blowhole and helps Spongebob and his pals to take on Antonio Banderas' pirate in real life. ( A move which recalls the animation style of The Simpsons' venture in the real world all those years ago)

Suitably lunatic, anarchic, occasionally subversive, mercifully short and stretched about as far as it can go, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water will appeal to Spongebob's legion of fans; there's little new for those unaware of the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom even though there's just enough adult moments to amuse - but not on a par with the likes of The Lego Movie, the Toy Storys or the recent Shaun The Sheep Movie.

Goofball and day-glo, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water will amuse the youngsters over the holiday - it serves its core audience brilliantly; nothing more, nothing less.


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Disney Infinity 2.0: PS4 Review

Disney Infinity 2.0: PS4 Review

Platform: PS4
Released by Disney

With Easter just around the corner, and the latest Avengers movie, Avengers: Age Of Ultron waiting in the wings for release, there seems like no better time to take a look at the Disney Infinity 2.0 set.

It's been around for nearly a year with some 20 characters available for purchase and every combo of your faves - from Hulk to Hawkeye, Iron Man to Black Widow - around to purchase.

Following on from the success of the first sets, there's little that's really changed with these sets; except for the fact that the Toy Box has expanded its horizons and given you more to build and more to play with.

The starter pack set comes with Thor, Iron Man and Black Widow and I also got Hulk too to mess around with. The figures are pretty standard renditions of the characters, more blocky than really developed but they have to be able to survive the handling by the little ones, so it's no surprise that they're durable rather than pitch perfect renditions.

It's the similar format too - these figures give life to virtual characters within Infinity stand (a la Skylanders and a la first set too) and then transfer to your screen for fun times ahead.

The play set game sees Loki unleashing the Frost Giants on Manhattan, in a twist on the first Avengers film. It's fun to play and gives you a sense of the epic nature of the set and the push towards bringing the Marvel Universe to life as per the plan of expanding the set out (will we get a Star Wars Infinity set now that they're part of the Disney stable too?) While Manhattan's relatively well transposed to the screen, it's lacking a little life and certainly doesn't have the graphic scope that was around for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. There's definitely a feeling the game skews younger so it's probably one for parents to play with kids and to enjoy that way rather than a seasoned gamer trying to hit all the finishes. Skill points contribute to upgrading the characters, so there's stuff to do as well as fight the marauding ice giants.

But the real push of Disney Infinity 2.0 is to be found in the toy sets, where you can build your own worlds and really bring the Marvel Universe to light in a way which really does set the bar for these games.

Tools, templates and helpers can aid in your creation of a world within and it's certainly the feeling that Disney Infinity 2.0 is going more for an ease of access feel than a full on permanent tutorial. After all, these sets are aimed at families and younger minds, so accessibility and simplicity of use are key factors to ensure the durability and life of the sets.

All in all, Disney Infinity 2.0 makes the idea of gaming and building with these characters fun - with Easter holidays just around the corner, and sales on currently, there's really no excuse not to get hold of these sets and characters.

With a new Avengers film here soon too, it's likely that there will be plenty of awareness - and thanks to the genuine creativity of Disney Infinity, it is a great way to amuse minds of all ages with these sets.

Newstalk ZB Review - Shaun The Sheep, Get Hard and Cinderella

Newstalk ZB Review - Shaun The Sheep, Get Hard and Cinderella

This week with Jack Tame, it was all about Sheep, convicts and princesses.

For reviews of Shaun The Sheep, Get Hard and Cinderella and some awful puns, just click below.



Saturday, 28 March 2015

SPECTRE trailer is here

SPECTRE trailer is here

Bond is back.

The first new trailer for SPECTRE has just been unveiled, the 24th James Bond film.

SPECTRE hits New Zealand cinemas on November 12th.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Exists: Blu Ray Review

Exists: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

It's back into the woods once more for the director of The Blair Witch Project who made such a killing with the movie back in 1999 and changed the found footage horror genre forever.

This time around, a group of friends head into a remote wood in Texas to party at an uncle's cabin, armed with a bazillion cameras, beers and hormones. On the way to the venue, the group hits something on the road - and dismissing it as a deer, they continue to head to the cabin.

But, later that night, a wailing starts in the woods - and soon they're being hunted by a Sasquatch...

Exists is exactly what you'd expect from the found footage genre.

There's an overload of shoe-horning in of cameras (everyone's always recording these days) and a series of horror tropes and conventions which are present from beginning to end. Sure, there's the obligatory shots of nondescript good-looking people getting passionate (thanks to one of their group perving on them and taping it all) and granted the group chooses to go further into the woods "for a short-cut" when they're being chased (cue eye-rolls of incredulity), but despite a bumpy 30 minutes that does little to endear you to the group, Exists soon proves to be remarkably solid.

With a fearsomely evocative sound-scape that manages to ramp up some of the tension in the cabin in the woods, Exists starts to come into its own as the Sasquatch begins to attack after its provocation.

Early onslaughts are confined to the blurred furry beast being glimpsed, running through the woods as one of the group tries to escape on a bike or from views of those hiding within the cabin, but Sanchez and the script don't shy away from revealing the beast in its glory and for subverting the genre by having the creature attack in the full light of day. There's a feral ferocity and animal logic to the Sasquatch which is commendable, even if its final interaction ends up being somewhat out of character.

Mind you, it's not to say that some of the more truly stupid moments don't detract from the film - a gung-ho firing of a gun with limited ammo by one character amed up on machismo being the true high of dumb behaviour - but the clever seeding of the cameras actually pays off with multiple angles in a climactic showdown revealing more than these usually would. Other scenes aren't as lucky though with darkness and muffled moments muddying the tension and proving frustrating rather than frightening as you struggle to work out exactly what - if anything - is going on.

All that said, if you go down to the woods today for Exists, you may actually get a bit of a cinematic surprise.


Devil May Cry: Definitive Collection: PS4 Review

Devil May Cry: Definitive Collection: PS4 Review

Released by Capcom

I have to confess to have never heard of Dante and the Devil May Cry series prior to this outing - apart from the PS3 release last year.

This latest is a spit and polished PS4 reboot and has become the more stylised DMC, from Ninja Theory, collecting together the main game and the DLC. A hack and slash'em up, it's centred around Dante, who's under attack from a series of demons who are currently beseiging Limbo City.

It begins with Dante awaking from a heavy night out, only to discover a demon's hunting him. Warned by a mysterious hooded woman figure that he's in danger, he grabs his trusty sword, Rebellion and pistols (Ebony and Ivory) and sets off to find out exactly what's going on.

Set in this parallel universe, the action of Devil May Cry is certainly full on.

Mashing buttons together, you get to perform various different hacking and killing combos as you take on various demons plaguing the world. The more incisive and violent your take downs are, the more points you rack up through the levels, thanks to an onscreen grading system which helps guide you through the kills.

As you explore the world, you learn tips and tricks of vaulting through the air, flying, pulling out blocks et al to your advantage. But there are also little bits to do within each world - secret missions, missions to save various lost souls trapped around limbo (which need to be killed to be freed).

The gameplay in Devil May Cry is relatively simple to be honest - with a narrative scattered through looking at Dante's past and his timeline, there's enough to keep you invested. The emo punk Dante looks impressive and is perhaps a little too pretty boy for those who've experienced Dante before - but certainly, graphically, it handles all of the requirements of the screen time.

Devil May Cry is not without its faults though - occasionally, the camera refuses to centre where it's needed, rendering combat a little too tricky when it shouldn't be and exploring the worlds with a weird camera can sometimes be annoying as well.

The biggest mis-step of Devil May Cry though is the music. Whoever decided that heavy metal should play as you deal in combat has made a serious miscalculation. It's annoying, grating and distracting - thankfully the option is there to remove the soundtrack, for which I'm eternally grateful.

Chained combos, along with the ability to upgrade weapons and various abilities being unlocked along the way, plus three settings mean Devil May Cry has a degree of re-playability - and shows that the naysayers who dismissed the reboot may be eating their hats once they sit down and take it on.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Zombie Army Trilogy: XBox One Review

Zombie Army Trilogy: XBox One Review

Platform: XBox One
Developed by Rebellion

Monotony is the keyword here in this release which collects together and remasters the Zombie Army games for a package that's a little tough to get fully immersed into, but is perfect to shoot away a few hours.

Set in the Sniper Elite universe, this third person shooter is all about getting the best kills from the marauding undead. Campaign mode in the game sees very little narrative thrown your way other than the fact that there are the undead heading your way in the middle of World War 2.

So armed with only the most basic of weaponry and a kicking foot to stomp those who get too close to you, it's off out into the various levels that make up three chapters of the game. It's simply a case of point, reload and shoot for the levels with the sniper mentality of the likes of Sniper Elite prepping you best for the stumbling masses as they shamble toward you intent on ripping you to shreds and simply killing you.

From a distance, headshots are the only way to kill off the hordes as they shuffle slowly but inevitably toward you. The greater the distance of the shot, the greater your points rewards and the higher your combo rises; but if there happens to be an occult pentagram around, a simple kill shot isn't enough and the creatures resurrect to annoy you even further; fortunately stomping on their heads stops this.

Levels follow a predictable pattern; shoot the creatures, find a safe house and rinse and repeat. Weapons from guns to grenades and mines can be found from searching the bodies so you're never short of something to kill with. In fact, it's much like any zombie game; don't get yourself cornered and you should be ok.

Horde mode is limited fun too; it's simply about surviving wave after wave of attacks from one vantage point before you are overwhelmed; it's here some of the game's frustrations kick in. A slow reloading of the weapon, shots that aren't perfect missing and making you question your own pinpoint accuracy.

Graphically, the game's no great shake; but one feature, the X Ray kill shot is a joy to behold. Like a Dalek exterminating and turning the image negative, the X Ray kill shot slows down into bullet time and gives you the thrill of it passing through the creature. It's gory and fun and a nice touch.

Co-op hasn't fully worked on the XBox for this title for me; hosting matches hasn't paid off with people joining and me being able to join, so perhaps that element is best left ignored.

All in all, Zombie Army Trilogy is no real great shakes of a game; it looks like it's come from a PC and while it's playable enough, its limited replay appeal does make me wonder whether it's simply good for a few gaming sessions here and there rather than nightly gaming.


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Infinitely Polar Bear: Film Review

Infinitely Polar Bear: Film Review

Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana
Director: Maya Forbes

Dysfunction is the cinematic norm for families and Infinitely Polar Bear makes no attempts to deviate from that.

An engaging and utterly charismatic Mark Ruffalo dials it up to 11 as Cam, a manic-depressive father whose breakdown precipitates the demise of his family. As his wife Maggie (an under-used Zoe Saldana) heads back to business school to secure a qualification to help them financially, Cam finds it's his turn to take the reins and look after their daughters - as well as try and get his own life and wife back on track.

Exec-produced by the Bad Robot team of JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk, Infinitely Polar Bear has crowd-pleasing written all over it.

Mark Ruffalo is positively oozing charm as Cam, who always seems to be manic and likable no matter what the situation with his daughters in this debut from writer / director Forbes. But that's also some of the problem of Infinitely Polar Bear; Cam's illness is often a caricature rather than a characteristic with his behaviour providing one too many punchlines during the movie.

It's a shame because Ruffalo is nothing short of endearing and an unconventional style and writing stops Infinitely Polar Bear from becoming the eccentric piece it so easily could have done if the manic behaviour had been more of a presence throughout.

That said, there are some lovely touches peppered into Forbes' debut; from a beautiful montage of Super 8 footage at the start detailing Cam and Maggie's courtship to a jauntily evocative and folksy OST, the movie has a feel-good glow around it. Off kilter lines catch you out and provoke spontaneous laughter as you fight them (and one Shining reference is brilliantly shoe-horned in to maximum effect).

A luminous Saldana is relatively sidelined due to dramatic necessity throughout and Infinitely Polar Bear remains Ruffalo's showcase from beginning to end.

From his Nacho Libre style get up at his breakdown to the final doffing of an inappropriate hat, Ruffalo imbues the screen with such good nature and charisma as Cam negotiates his unpredictable way through such raucous parenting that it's impossible to not watch.

Ultimately, Infinitely Polar Bear will charm you thanks to Ruffalo's performance, guiding you through the highs of the lows (there's hardly any exploration of the more devastating sides of the bipolar condition which is a crippling fault of the film) with a skill that's to be vaguely admired rather than totally applauded.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Game of Thrones Episode 3 releases this week

Game of Thrones Episode 3 releases this week

Based on the award-winning HBO television drama series, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series tells the story of House Forrester. Caught up in the events of The War of the Five Kings, they are placed in a precarious position where members of the household must do everything they can to prevent the house from meeting its doom.

"The Sword in the Darkness" will be available starting tomorrow March 24th on PC/Mac from the Telltale Online Store, Steam, and other digital distribution services, as well as the PlayStation®Network for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 in North America (SCEA). The episode will be available on Wednesday, March 25th on the Xbox Games Store for Xbox One® and Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, as well as the PlayStation®Network for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 in European territories (SCEE). The episode will also be coming to compatible iOS devices via the App Store and to Android-based devices on March 26th. 

The game series is based on the world, characters and events seen in HBO's TV show, which in turn is based on George R. R. Martin's books (A Song of Ice and Fire). The events in the game series begin towards the end of Season Three of the series, and end right before the beginning of Season Five. Players will visit familiar locations such as King's Landing and The Wall, as well as unfamiliar locations such as Ironrath, the home of House Forrester.

The game is played from five different points of view. Each is a member of House Forrester; either a direct family member, or a person in service to the House. Scattered across Westeros and Essos, each will play their part in seeking to save House Forrester from destruction.

Asher, the exile, heads to Mereen in search of an army to take on the Whitehills. Meanwhile, far across land and sea in Westeros, Mira must deal with the lethal politics of King's Landing. Her family's safety is paramount and she will do anything to protect them, but nothing is given freely, and her choice of allies may soon come to haunt her. To the north, in Ironrath, the Whitehill occupation continues. Gryff Whitehill, fourth-born son, is out to prove himself, and brutality and violence grows daily, pushing the Forresters to make far-reaching decisions. Finally, at the Wall, Gared learns that he must head north if he is to help his house survive. But fate is cruel, forcing choices that will change his path forever.

Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series - Episode 3: 'The Sword in the Darkness' is rated 'M' (Mature) for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language by the ESRB. Future content in the series is yet to be rated by the ESRB. 
For more information on Telltale Games, visit the official website, Facebook forGame of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, and follow Telltale Games on twitter @TelltaleGames.

New Arkham Knight gameplay footage emerges

New Arkham Knight gameplay footage emerges

Rocksteady's revealed Arkham Knight is being pushed back 3 weeks but has tempered the news with an incredible 7 minute video of in-game footage.

Here's what Rocksteady had to say:

Batman: Arkham Knight will now launch in New Zealand on June 24, 2015. We're a developer that hates to make any compromises, so we are sorry to say this means it's going to be just a little bit longer until you can play the epic conclusion to the Arkham trilogy. As a reward for your patience and understanding, and to make the wait even more unbearable, we are pleased to whet your appetite with a new gameplay video of Batman: Arkham Knight.

Get Hard: Film Review

Get Hard: Film Review

Cast: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, Craig T Nelson
Director: Etan Cohen

It's perhaps a brutal coincidence that Get Hard's central premise is about prepping Will Ferrell's white collar stockbroker for jail time because watching this comedy is like doing a prison sentence for anyone in the audience.

Ferrell is James King, a man whose life appears to be going well; he's scored a hot fiancee (Community star Alison Brie) and is about to be made partner of his stock-broker firm, led by his soon-to-be-father-in-law (Craig T Nelson).

But it all falls apart when he's arrested at his engagement party and charged with fraud and embezzlement, leading to a court appearance where he's sentenced to 10 years jail by a judge who's over Wall Street types walking free.

So, with 30 days to get ready for jail, King engages the services of Darnell (Kevin Hart) a car wash attendant at his company who he believes, because he's African-American, has been to jail and can ready him....

Get Hard trades on offensively unoriginal stereotypes, a raft of dick jokes that just aren't funny, gay stereotyping, homophobia and over-uses a "gag" that there will be plenty of rape in prison for King, given how he's not tough enough to survive.

Be still, my aching sides.

The central premise of the film could have been a majorly impressive satire, but instead three screenwriters (!) cash all of that in for lazy scenes that lack jokes or any kind of punch-line humour.

The gag is that Darnell is as middle-class as they come, using his riffs on Boyz'n'The Hood to provide the wealthy but idiotically naive King with his insights into what jail time could proffer. Thankfully, though, in yet another lazy stereotypical moment, Darnell has a gang brother who can conveniently help.

One of the worst scenes sees Darnell taking King to a prominent gay hang-out to help him train to offer another service in prison which will help him survive. It's deeply unfunny as well as offensive, given that the writers don't actually have a point or punchline for Ferrell to make. I'm betting the writers would see that they're pushing the envelope but what they're actually doing is failing to raise anything satirical or remotely amusing.

Sure, Get Hard is supposed to be a buddy comedy, with Hart taking the role that would have been Eddie Murphy's or Chris Rock's a few years ago, but the film has nothing new or original - or even funny - to say, leading it to feel dated within seconds of it starting.

Get Hard is flaccid, unfunny and a waste of everyone's time. It's a betrayal of Ferrell's comic talents and Hart's motor-mouth tendencies. While the duo has a reasonable comic rapport and some riffs work unexpectedly well, it's again a case of this seeming funnier on paper than in actual execution.

Quite frankly, all of those involved really should be given a prison sentence - for crimes against comedy and for lazy stereotyping.


The Gunman: Film Review

The Gunman: Film Review

Cast: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone
Director: Pierre Morel

The geri-action franchise gets a new entrant in the form of Sean Penn who's teamed up with the director of Taken. Well, with the news that Liam Neeson's stepping down from the action game, a new contender had to emerge.

Penn stars as Jim Terrier, an international operative working undercover in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, whose assassination mission sees him forced to leave the country, his friend Felix (Bardem) and lover Annie (Trinca).

Resurfacing 8 years later, Terrier's back in the DRC now with for a humanitarian organisation but finds himself in the gun when an attack where he's working takes place. Suddenly finding he's part of a conspiracy that relates back to his actions in 2006, Terrier begins to revisit his old life to find out exactly what's going on.

In its initial scenes, The Gunman appears to be an intelligent piece about potential sins of the past coming back to haunt before betraying its set up and settling for a generic geriatric action thriller that has some impressive stunt work and set ups but ultimately blunts your senses.

Penn's wiry and intent outlook gets you through the exposition heavy sequences to start off before the bullets start to fly, the explosions begin to shake the screen and the globe-hopping kicks in to dizzy you out of any intelligent thought you had about the issues being explored.  If anything Penn makes a good case for his entrant into the pantheon of oldie action heroes, looking better than most, puzzled when the conspiracy kicks in and suffers through the many indignities of the script with utter commitment.

And it is the script that causes issues - a life threatening illness for our hero only kicks in when the circumstances necessitate (and therefore irritates), a bull fight is leaned upon too heavily as an allegory for the final showdown and Trinca's character serves only to become the damsel in distress after a strong start.

Coupled with a near unwatchable Bardem and a bloated Winstone wearing a bizarre wig, The Gunman betrays any pretence towards grandeur and settles for a cliched unoriginal action thriller and pulpy trashy conspiracy novel.

Quite simply, this Gunman is shooting blanks.


Monday, 23 March 2015

Life is Strange Episode 2 out tomorrow!

Life is Strange Episode 2 out tomorrow!

Episode 1: Chrysalis was just the beginning of our story, it was an introduction to the characters, to Blackwell Academy and to Arcadia Bay, but there is much more to come. Will Max and Chloe discover what has happened to Rachel Amber? Why does Max have this vision of a tornado? And what is the weird snow storm about? There are plenty of secrets lurking in Arcadia Bay…

In Episode 2: Out of Time you will start to see much of your choices affecting the story in a lot of different ways, be prepared for some surprises! You will also discover new locations as Max will go outside of Blackwell Academy and start exploring new areas in Arcadia Bay. You'll be able to learn more about the town, its inhabitants, and the social issues it’s facing. On top of this, new and important characters will be introduced, as well as having a lot of difficult choices to make.

For those have already purchased Episode 1, you can pick up episodes 2-5 separately on console or via the ‘Season Pass’ on console and PC. Alternatively, you can purchase all episodes with the ‘Complete Season’ bundleIf you have yet to play Life is Strange, there is a free trial available for you to try out the game too.

Shaun The Sheep: The Movie: Film Review

Shaun The Sheep: The Movie: Film Review

Vocal cast: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili
Director: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

If there's anywhere that a movie about sheep is likely to succeed, it's here in good ole New Zealand.

The latest from Aardman Animations sees the titular Shaun The Sheep garnering his five minutes of big screen fame to produce a warmly comic and family outing that's nothing less than shear fun (if a little wooly in places), and which recalls in parts Chicken Run.

Expanded out from the 7 minute shorts that have been so successful on TV, the movie sees Shaun determined to break out from his normal routine down on the farm with Bitzer the dog and the Farmer.

But when Shaun's attempts to get a day off go awry and the farmer ends up in the big city with amnesia, the group flocks to try and find their owner and restore the balance down the farm.

However, standing in their way is the unfamiliarity with the city life and an animal control inspector determined to lock Shaun and his pals up.

Shaun The Sheep: The Movie is a blast, a sign that innocence and simplicity can triumph over any kind of cinematic cynicism.

Packing in some truly brilliant sight gags that appeal universally is no mean feat, but as Aardman's shown in the past with Wallace and Gromit et al, their MO is clearly aimed at the original and amusing, with this latest outing raising the baa quite considerably while never forgetting the heart.

Essentially, this is a silent movie, with no dialogue other than grunts and a few bleats here and there; but make no mistake, this silence of the lambs speaks louder than any of its ilk, thanks to an understanding of classic silent films, slapstick humour and just a great self-awareness over the British way of life.

Highlights include a baa-bershop quartet, various gags involving the ongoing divide between town and country, a great trick to get everyone to fall asleep (involving counting sheep), mocking celebrity stylings and a Hannibal Lecter gag.

Shaun The Sheep: The Movie has just an insistence on ensuring everyone has a good time, with heart and humour well placed throughout. Aardman's excelled themselves again with the love pouring from every frame and with every single expression saying more than a thousand words ever could.

Laced with charm and charisma, worries that Shaun skews young and with a smaller scale are misplaced; this family movie hits all the highs and never outstays its 85 minute duration. It's a bright, breezy breath of uncomplicated cinematic fresh air.

When it comes to Shaun The Sheep: The Movie, ewe'd be utterly baa-rmy to miss it.


Mission Impossible Rogue Nation trailer drops

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation trailer drops

The first trailer for Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible Rogue Nation has just dropped.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Get On Up: Blu Ray Review

Get On Up: Blu Ray Review

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

The godfather of Soul cast a long shadow over the musical world – and this musical biopic aims to do the same.

Charting James Brown’s life and times, from his childhood traumas to the rise to the top of the charts, the latest from The Help director Tate Taylor is a splintered affair, that revels in the funk, but scats over the darker side and nature of the man.

Choosing to bounce around the timelines of his life more than the sex machine did on stage, Taylor’s attempts at a non-linear, non-conventional biopic is a choppy affair, stripped of any narrative cohesion and exercise in not joining the dots and pandering to its audience. Glossing over any social context and history means that the film feels removed from the times (which so mired parts of Taylor’s last the award-winning The Help) and serves to lift the audience out of Brown’s story.

Starting with Brown walking out to the stage and reflecting on his abused past, the tone of the film is set with Taylor taking in three different time-jumps in as many moments, giving the viewer nary a chance to settle in and begin to connect. Plus, with Brown breaking the fourth wall occasionally and talking in the third person, the tonal shifts actually end up taking you out of the film that shows some warts (fleetingly) of its subject.

Thankfully, it's Boseman's commanding portrayal of Brown - along with some blisteringly electric live performances and a soulful OST - that really elevates Get On Up to the heights that it deserves to scale. Boseman is never anything less than compelling as The Godfather of Soul throughout – from the man moved by gospel to the soulless tyrannical monster who causes wedges in his own band through their mistreatment; from channeling Brown's slitheringly funky dance moves to his vocal intonations, this is as chameleonic and watchable a turn as you're likely to see this year.

Boseman breathes real life livewire energy into Brown from beginning to end (in the way that Joaquin Phoenix did in Walk The Line and Jamie Foxx did in Ray) – as well as giving some life to the monstrously paranoid and uglier side of the man (even though the script cheats as it skirts around the edgier moments and offers glimpses rather than full on dives into the man’s psyche).

Equally as impressive is True Blood star Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd, the man who recognised Brown's talent and did all he could to bolster that. Scenes between the pair give the film a warmth that's needed and a heart that’s necessary - and is lacking in other parts due to the compulsion to jump around narratively more than Brown would ever do on stage. Likewise, Dan Ackroyd seems to get some of the vim and vigour he had in the Blues Brothers as Ben Bart, the manager who aided Brown’s ascent – a fact that’s glossed over in this flick in favour of Brown apparently displaying business acumen.

But it's Taylor's insistence on presenting the James Brown story without the darkness that's the most cloying aspect of the film – and a touch that sanitises this tale of rock and roll; a moment of domestic violence hits off screen and is then followed by Boseman directly looking into the lens, a jarring touch that seems to prefer to skirt over the more tormented side of Brown. Equally, there's hardly any time spent on his youth to explain why Brown ended up as driven as he did and as insecure of others, other than brief snapshots here and there. It's the lack of this that stops Get On Up from really getting you into the mind of the man. Perhaps, a decision to give the film more of a focus would have prevented such a cinematic and narrative discord.

That said, Get On Up is worth the price of admission alone because of Boseman's star-making performance as the troubled singer. He brings the funk to the James Brown story and stops the large part of this movie from lapsing into a funk of its own.


Kratos comes to PS4

Kratos comes to PS4

One of the most critically acclaimed games of the last generation, God of War® III, has been remastered for the PlayStation®4 (PS4™) system, marking the debut of Kratos on PS4. God of War III Remastered brings the epic battles and carnage to life with stunning graphics, 1080p gameplay and an elaborate plot that once again sees Kratos at the center of destruction as he seeks revenge against the Gods who have betrayed him. 

Set in the realm of brutal Greek mythology, God of War III Remastered allows players to take on the role of the fearless ex-Spartan warrior, Kratos, as he rises from the depths of Hades to the heights of Mt. Olympus in order to seek his bloody revenge on those who have betrayed him. Armed with double-chained blades and an array of weapons and magic, Kratos must take on mythology’s deadliest creatures while solving intricate puzzles throughout his merciless quest to destroy Olympus. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Doctor Who Legacy - interviewing Lee and Susan of Tiny Rebel Games

Doctor Who Legacy - interviewing Lee and Susan of Tiny Rebel Games

Doctor Who Legacy is a free gem-matching game that has a strong emphasis on the show's history, and uses RPG elements to take on teams of baddies while letting you play a team of your own making.

Fiendishly addictive and eminently playable, the game's been on my portable player for a while (to my wife's continued annoyance) and I was lucky enough to be granted a Q&A with the Tiny Rebel Games' team of Lee and Susan about their past, the game's past and future and the imminent launch of Bigger on the Inside (March 25th!).

First off, just a thanks for making a game that’s really taken off with the community . I’m keen to know how the idea of the game actually came to fruition?
We decided we wanted to design and produce our first mobile game, and to publish it at the same time. For two people this sounded like (and indeed was) a massive undertaking, so we decided that we wouldn’t make the whole project riskier by trying to create our own intellectual property at the same time. Instead we would find something we loved, something we would happily build a game around, even at the expense of having a chance of creating our own universe. We watch a lot of BBC shows, and at the time we had just finished watching the 2nd series of Sherlock (which we loved, huge fans of all of Moffatt’s work) so we approached BBC Worldwide about a Sherlock, which they said no to, but they wanted to work with us and were curious whether we wanted to make a Doctor Who game. We’ve watched so much Doctor Who in our lives that later that same day we pitched the Legacy project to them.

I know both of you had a background in gaming – can you tell us a little more about what you were doing?
Lee started in QA at Sony, before moving to Rockstar Games where he ended up producing on the Grand Theft Auto series, as well as working on many other projects there. At the same time, Susan was doing deals for Rockstar, then she co-founded 2K games, signing their launch slate of titles including gems like Bioshock and Borderlands. After they both left they founded several games companies together, launching projects such as the critically acclaimed Order Up Wii game, and War of the Worlds.

Was a Doctor Who game like this always on your mind to create?
This was the first idea we discussed after we found out that there was a chance we could work on a Doctor Who game, and we loved it so much that it’s changed very little from that first conversation. We love to play gem games in our spare time, and designed / produced a game together years ago, Puzzle Kingdoms, as a collaboration with Steve Fawkner, who created Puzzle Quest.

How much did your love of the show permeate the fact you were creating a game for it – did that make it harder?
It makes certain things harder. It would be better if we had a narrower knowledge of the show, since it becomes overwhelming trying to pick between so many amazing episodes, so many amazing characters. The game has heavily impacted our viewing of the show as well since we need to have a certain amount of spoiler filled information before an episode ends in order to create content which is launched alongside (such as the season 8 episodes, and the Christmas episode this year). As a couple who really love to watch new episodes together, having that impacted makes everything a bit harder.

I know the BBC has been supportive of what you’re doing with Legacy, that must make a real difference?
This game wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the amazing, unrelenting support from the brand team at the BBC and the Doctor Who team in Cardiff. We have over 100 allies and companions, the actors behind each need to give us approval to use their likeness, and every enemy we add has to be signed off by the person who created them. It’s a colossal amount of work behind the scenes, and work which is vital to the continuation of the game. We talk to our producer at the BBC almost daily (and he frequently joins in for our weekly Twitch chats) because, if we didn’t have that level of constant communication, we could never dream of launching the amount of content that we do.

The game’s over a year old now, with something like 1.5 million players and it’s ever evolving, does it surprise you how far you’ve come in a year?
It’s shocked us. Before launch, rumours of a gem based Doctor Who game leaked out and the first response was very negative. The game launched, and reviews were amazing, but we weren’t sure if our grand experiment, a continually updated, live mobile game, running alongside a TV show, would make it to the end of the first month. We’re amazed every day by what the community which has sprung up around the game has allowed us to do. We launched new content day and date alongside an episode of the show many times, which is unprecedented in the mobile space. We’ve updated the game almost weekly (on average, easily weekly) for the last 15 months, which is almost unprecedented. Last year a new mobile game was launched something like every 9 minutes, the chances of the project failing (especially given the long, uneven history of Doctor Who games) were high. We’re eternally grateful to the fans who support the game, who trust us to be the caretakers of this project.

Partnerships with Big Finish characters, Titan Comics, Pixel Who - what else do you want to explore in the Who-niverse? And how much deeper into the worlds I’ve just mentioned will you go?
We definitely want to explore all those worlds in much greater detail. This morning we’ve been working on new levels to go out alongside the new 9th Doctor comic book series coming soon, and we’re talking to Big Finish about how to continue our relationship. Pixel Who have been amazing, and we’re less than a week from the launch of the Bigger on the Inside prologue, which we’re incredibly excited about. Our work with BBC’s books group led to the inclusion of Cinder from Engines of War, the War Doctor’s only companion, which is great to see in the game – these allies from the extended universe who finally get to go on adventures with the whole cast.

It feels to me like the game and your approach to it is one of fluidity and community (with your constant email support and also Sharee’s work on the FaceBook page, Adi’s weekly Twitch stream) – you’re always adapting to your community, creating levels like Anna’s Playground for the younger end, being shaped by feedback as well, is that why you believe your free-to-play game has been so successful?
We believe that the industry’s first attempt at creating a free to play space missed the mark a bit and created a space where users were forced into paying through hard paywalls, horrible ideas like energy meters and utilized exploitative social networking. Sadly this worked, which left a space where players felt exploited, and businesses face a choice of doing what is proven to make money, or try to create something new which could fail. We believe that there is another way, something more fair. Legacy is our first attempt at making a free to play game, and the game has been praised as “the most moral free to play game”, but we still think there are other ways the industry should be heading. People seem to appreciate this, and it seems to have gone a long way to us maintaining high ratings on the app stores. When you combine this mentality with a fierce love of Doctor Who, it becomes pretty powerful stuff if you’re a gamer interested in that specific space. For new users, especially fans of Doctor Who, that’s a pretty happy and awesome community to be welcomed into if you do love what Legacy offers, which is the real success of the game.

You’ve got Bigger on the Inside coming out on 25th March to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the new series; the artwork looks fun and the game is again evolving (some may say regenerating perhaps) – what are you excited for people to see with this release?
This is our first story which starts with all 13 Doctors present, which is an amazing opportunity. The full Bigger on the Inside story is over 120 levels, which is almost as big as the game was when we launched. The story is epic – many of the Doctors get their own story arcs, and it’s all set inside the TARDIS, which allows us to dive into some of her rooms you haven’t seen for decades. We’ve been working on this for many months now, we’re just thrilled that everyone gets to see the first level =)

Also, you’re rolling out the next season of the game too (you must be exhausted with all of this work), but I’ve heard the release of this is going to be different – is it true it’ll be more episodic and weekly? If so, why?
Our goal from the very start of the project was to have an ongoing, live story. Up until now this has meant that big chunks of content come out every few months, however with our super efficient content pipeline, and our ability to push new levels out on demand, we’ve always wanted a story which fans can “tune in” to play every week. Just like the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up on – once a week 3 or 4 new levels will be released, all driven by story.

To play Doctor Who Legacy for free and get into the game that's got Whovians buzzing, click on the various formats below:

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