Archive for the ‘New Releases’ Category

Rage – Don’t Look Back In Anger…

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

_-rage-xbox-360-_1Rage is one of those games that didn’t seem to get much justice when it came to advertisement, but that doesn’t mean it disappoints. Developed by the guys at Id Software (Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein), and produced by Bethesda Softworks (Fallout, Elder Scrolls), this game boasts one of the most famous teams in the games industry, and you can tell that there was a lot of loving attention paid to every aspect of this game.

Now, before I get started, I would recommend anyone playing this game to install it to the hard drive of their console. Standing in at 22GB on 3 disks for the Xbox 360 version (or 8GB per disk on the PS3), it is a huge game, with the graphics making up for most of the size, and you will see why.

The Rage intro does a great job of showing the story so far; an asteroid is on a collision course with earth, and everyone is put into stasis chambers called Arks (Fallout’s vaults anyone?). Straight from the get go you can see how visually beautiful this game is, and my other half thought she was watching the start of some mega-bucks blockbuster. Everything from packs of sweets to mutated bosses has had each detail considered, examined and rendered to perfection. In short, Rage has definitely set a new bar for the standards of video gaming graphics.

There is, as with 99% of games, a little tutorial on the controls (look up, look down, run around in circles, blah blah blah) followed by a little mission to introduce you to the game’s mechanics. The controls are about as straightforward as they come; anyone accustomed to playing FPS games will feel right at home. However, even though there are plenty of areas you will be running and gunning (Rage isn’t another run-of-the-mill cover shooter), this isn’t where Rage truly shines, although this aspect remains great fun. Being a sandbox game, inevitably some areas are limited at first until you do a mission to blow/open up whatever is in your way. As a result, vehicles are a must, and the controls for driving are as responsive as ever, making it easy and entertaining to drive.

Throughout the course of playing the game you will find a lot of influences from the projects that both companies have under their belt, most notably of which are Bethesda’s open-world RPGs. There aren’t any RPG elements within Rage but there is still the option for side quests as well as the main story missions. This means that you can make that little bit more money, enabling you to be more prepared when engaging the main missions. This also means that you won’t be getting bored anytime soon, and will probably be spending a lot of time doing the side quests just to upgrade your guns/armour/vehicles.

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Unknown – Should stay that way

Monday, June 13th, 2011

unknown-imageLiam Neeson, best known recently for his role as all action dad in Taken, returns to our screens as Martin Harris, a Doctor due in Berlin to give a speech.  On arriving outside a hotel in a taxi, Dr Harris realises that he has forgotten his briefcase and without entering the hotel with his wife, jumps in to another cab to rush to the airport.

On the way to the airport, frustrated by the traffic, Dr Harris asks the driver to take a different route to which she obliges.  but there is trouble ahead.  Something comes loose from a lorry in front, causing the cab to swerve and crash through a bridge in to a river.

The driver rescues Dr Harris and then leaves the scene quickly, as it appears she is an illegal immigrant.  When Dr Harris wakes, it is 4 days later, and no one has filed a missing persons report for him.  Confused and in a state of panic, Dr Harris checks himself out of the hospital and travels to the hotel to check on his wife.

When he sees his wife he is relieved.  but there is a problem, she doesn’t recognise him and is introducing another man as her husband and he claims to be Dr Martin Harris.

He has no choice but to return to hospital as it seems he is not remembering things correctly, but his mind is convincing him that he is the real Martin Harris and that there must to something strange going on, and when an assassin kills his nurse he knows he is a target of something much bigger than a bit of memory loss.

Neeson then goes on his usual gung ho, one man mission to get to the truth.  He manages to track down the cab driver and although reluctant at first she agrees to help him.

Slowly he starts to piece things back together but starts to think that he may not be Dr Martin Harris after all, but who is he?? (more…)

Unstoppable – A train wreck?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

unstoppable-true-storyLoosely based on actual events, Unstoppable sees an unmanned train on the rampage with some 40-plus carriages, two of which are carrying molten phenol. It leaves Stanley Rail Yard in Walbridge, Ohio to begin a 66-mile journey of total destruction…

That morning, 28-year-old rail veteran Frank (Denzel Washington) is paired up with young rookie Will (Chris Pine) for a training day.  Tensions are high, as Frank is being forced to retire so that younger guys like Will can come in and take over the work.

Soon enough, and somewhat predictably, they have to join forces to face not only a runaway train, but also a company that seems to care more about protecting the cargo than the lives threatened by the charging locomotive.

Reaching speeds of over 50mph, the menacing missile tears through Northern Ohio for two tense and terrifying hours (well, at least they are supposed to be tense and terrifying).  With attempts to slow the train failing, Will and Frank decide to try and hook up their train to the speeding disaster zone, in order to slow it down before it’s too late.  Can the train be stopped before a tragic catastrophe claims the lives of innocent civilians?

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The Road – A harsh but heart-warming tale of survival

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

theroadposterCormac McCarthy is one of the finest writers in modern literature; he has produced instant classics with Blood Meridian and All The Pretty Horses, not to mention a certain novel titled No Country For Old Men.

The latter is a truly brilliant and breathtaking book, and many who did not appreciate the film would have done well to check out the source material first, in order to gain a better understanding of the story, its purpose and the reasons behind the opinion-splitting ending.

McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with The Road, a literary work that is magnificent beyond words. It is the story of a man and his son as they attempt to survive an arduous journey through a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The film version, directed by The Proposition helmer John Hillcoat, faithfully adapts the book into a stark, vivid and harrowing piece of cinema.

The two embark on an emotionally and physically draining quest to stay alive in a barren, cold and savage environment where vicious cannibals are a constant threat, and thieves would not think twice about stealing a blanket from a sleeping child.

Man and boy are heading south, out of hope more than anything else. We do not know their names, we do not know what happened to the world and we certainly do not know if they can survive this bleak, unforgiving hell.

A moment of weakness and fatigue sees them investigate a house where they find something truly horrifying in the basement, whilst the man’s own savage survival instincts cause him to defy his son’s desperate request of leniency towards a thief they hold at gunpoint.

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The Descent Part 2 – The beasts below are back!

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

descent2posterSpelunking is defined as the hobby or practice of exploring caves; any additional scraps with ungodly creatures from the pits of hell are not usually included with said pastime.

That is, of course, unless you happen to fancy a trip down the holes under the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.

The original Descent saw director Neil Marshall produce a tense British horror that generated widespread acclaim. Whilst this film was indeed scary, well shot and a lot of fun, it has to be said that Neil Marshall’s ability to write dialogue for women is somewhat akin to a dog’s ability to play hopscotch.

Considering that the whole cast was female, this was a bit of a problem; however, The Descent was not a dialogue-driven piece, and thus it escaped unscathed and turned out to be a very enjoyable movie.

We were excited about the prospect of a follow-up (although what we really wanted was a sequel to Marshall’s awesome directorial debut Dog Soldiers). The end of The Descent saw Shauna MacDonald’s sole surviving character, Sarah, believe that she had escaped the hellish cave, only to wake up realising she was still stuck down there. The deliberately ambiguous ending was brave, and worked well.

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Harry Brown: Michael Caine brings the pain

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

hb33Harry Brown is a cracking British thriller which pits the legendary Sir Michael Caine against a gang of drug dealers on a south-east London estate.

Caine plays the titular Brown, an ex-Royal Marine who is spending his twilight years making regular visits to his dying wife’s hospital bed and playing chess in the pub with his only friend Leonard.

Leonard reveals his constant harassment by local youths, and he is starting to show signs of cracking. A local underpass serves as a gathering point for the dealers. It also acts as a shortcut to the hospital but Harry refuses to take it, fearing for his life.

In one moving scene, after having taken the long way round to the hospital, Harry finds that his wife has already been removed from her bed; succumbing to her illness before he arrived.

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Persepolis

Monday, May 18th, 2009

persepolisBased on the autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis is an animated coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of the Iranian revolution. Told through the eyes of a child (as reflected in Satrapi’s simplistic yet expressive black-and-white artwork), the story gives a potted history of modern Iran and shows how the various political upheavals affect her own liberal-minded family on a personal and often tragic level.

Though based in a Middle-Eastern context, Satrapi’s film is truly universal in its appeal and sentiment. After translations of the original novel met with worldwide success, Satrapi told the New York Times, “Suddenly I said to myself, ‘This is a universal story.’ I want to show that all dictatorships, no matter if it’s Chile, the Cultural Revolution in China or communist Poland, it’s the same schematic.”

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Burn After Reading

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

george-clooneyBurn After Reading is another screwball comedy from the Coen Brothers, which takes a bunch of Hollywood A-listers and lets them play the fool in the world of political espionage. This is a parody of the classic spy thriller, where nothing is at stake, caution is thrown to the wind and chaos reigns supreme.

The whole film hinges around a lost disc containing the memoirs of Osborne Cox (John Malkovich), recently sacked from the CIA following a drink problem, which falls into the hands of two gormless gym employees, middle-aged plastic-surgery junkie Linda (Frances McDormand) and easygoing airhead Chad (Brad Pitt).

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La Vie en Rose

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

roseNeglected by her mother, a street singer in the seedy Paris district of Monmartre, and abandoned in a brothel by her circus performing father, Edith Piaf (played by Marion Cotillard) learned to grow up fast. She was blind for much of her childhood, but according to one account miraculously regained her sight during a pilgrimage honouring Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux, an event that the film portrays with the same realism as documented fact. Singing in the street one day, she was spotted by an impresario and soon became one of Europe’s best loved stars and a French icon. She was less than five feet tall, earning her the nickname ‘Little Sparrow’, and had a string of affairs with famous men such as the actor Yves Montand and middleweight boxing champion Marcel Cerdan. She drank till she could no longer stand, injected herself with morphine, contracted crippling arthritis and met an early death in her forties.

What a life, and one that director Olivier Dahan does not attempt to sweeten. In fact the “emotional journey” he takes us through is nothing short of tragic. Flitting dizzily between key events – stunning performances in 1940’s New York, a childhood characterised by loneliness and abuse, car crashes in California and the onset of liver cancer – Dahan’s approach is fragmented and disorienting, reflecting Piaf’s inner turmoil and public demise.

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The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

the_counterfeitersThe Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher), from Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky, tells the true story of concentration camp Jews who escaped the gas chambers by counterfeiting for the Nazis. The film is based on a memoir written by Adolf Burger, a Jewish Slovak typographer who was imprisoned for forging baptismal certificates to save Jews from deportation and later interned at Sachsenhausen.

In 1942 the Nazi’s launched Operation Bernhard, which aimed to flood the economies of their enemies with millions of forged British pound and US dollar notes, whilst bolstering their own flagging war chest. And who better to do it than the Jews, whose payment was their life, as long as they were needed? So, in the world’s largest ever counterfeiting scam, dozens of Jewish printers, typographers and a few ex-cons in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp were set to work on the forgery of some £130 million. At the helm was Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch (Salomon Smolianoff in real life), played by Karl Markovics, who had lived the highlife as a professional counterfeiter before his six year ordeal in the concentration camps. “Why earn money by making art?” he asks one person. “Making money by making money is so much easier.”

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