Marking the first of few belated reviews that will be hitting the page soon is Aronofsky’s Biblical epic, Noah. The films received some varied reviews, and I did approach slightly apprehensively. Though I’m a huge fan of Aronofsky, the sword-and-sandal historical epic starring Russell Crowe has had more than its fair share of duds, but boring casting aside I entered with an open mind and came out pleased with what had been produced.
Telling the famous story was never going to be an easy task, not least because of the minuscule length of its source material. Obstacle one would be to stretch this short story into a two-hour screen epic. What’s been added is a battle between two groups of humans, one led by Noah and including some giant rock monsters formed by angels and the other headed by Ray Winstone and a load a sinful heathens against the destruction of the entire planet. It is, as you’d expect, absurd and slightly mad but it manages to pull it off. The characters are very well drawn particularly Noah himself who is not shown as a holier than thou know-it-all but a troubled man battling internally with what he believes he must to for his God and what he feels is right for his family. He is far from perfect and as the plot bears on it becomes more and more apparent that he may, in fact, not be the hero his family once believed him to be. He’s held in place though by his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) who provides the films standout performance in a challenging role. Emma Watson also performs as would be expected and the rest of the cast, though not brilliant, just about hold things together. I found though that what gives Noah is real quality is the pacing and build of tension which is kept throughout its run time. The fight scenes are given a sense of urgency from Mansell’s score which is repetitive but highly effective.
When every other blockbuster is a superhero movie and the ones that aren’t a sci-fi it makes for a nice change to have something Biblical and Aronofsky does a good job of keeping the action alive while honouring one of history’s oldest stories and injecting it with a style not many other directors would be capable of. While Aronofsky purist will be pining for a more artistic affair this delivers on the levels you would expect of something on this scale.
Wings of the Apache is perhaps one of the most dreaded films on the Cage list, with a score of 4.5 on iMDB and the most bland set up for a film you could imagine. Basically the government has offered its services to other countries that need help in the war on drugs, Cage who is training as an Apache pilot is considered one of the best potential fliers in the business and is set to work to learn to fly the Apache and take down an evil drug baron who also flies a fighter helicopter. Cage stars alongside Tommy Lee Jones.
Also known as Fire Birds this Cage outing is a copy cat affair. Following in the footsteps of Top Gun and blatantly attempting to recreate pretty much everything in that movie this film is devoid of any kind of originality. The script is one of the most dire things you could possibly imagine and the majority of it is taken over by a hideous cliched romance btween cage and the only other woman in the Apache school. It becomes apparent that the pair have some previous but that Cage is not going to take no for answer so for many of the scenes in the mid-point he simply reels off hideous chat up lines and innuendos in an attempt to woo her. It’s pretty creepy really until there’s one scene were suddenly he just wins her over with no real explanation. The only other major plot point is to do with Cage having a dominant left eye which means he has trouble guiding the helicopters as you can only view through your right with the aid of an eye piece. However this issue which for much of the film appears to threaten his chances of ever getting to fly for real, is solved in one five minute exercise that involves Cage driving a Jeep with a pair of pants on his head. And that’s not even a joke. Tommy Lee Jones is distinctly average with some dreadful dialogue that he proceeds to just spit out in his monotone voice. Despite all this horror when it comes down to the final action sequence I found that actually hadn’t hated the film at all. It had been awful but there was something really fun about it. Objectively awful but subjectively actually not bad.
Cage is pretty average throughout with a couple of odd moments of shimmering madness and some bubblegum popping cheese that make this an enjoyable if not exceptional performance.
Misfits has easily been e4’s best original drama from the past two or three years but this year it was time for the asbo-superhero show to draw to a close. Now with a completely different cast from when the show started out Misfits had become a slightly confused entity. Despite this I thought series four was on of the programmes strongest overall, mainly because it took everything back to basics; the writing had become over-complicated by series three and the upheaval of cast members meant that they had to start again from scratch. With it’s fifth and final series though, Misfits badly fails to deliver.
In the past Misfits has been a eclectic mix of comedy, drama and action, every element being well thought-out and completely fresh and original. Series five however lacks the fresh-faced bite it once had. There aren’t many darker moments and only one episode of the series where we get a flash of the horror element that the show so successfully pulls off in previous seasons. The cast interaction is awkward too, and by this series it becomes impossible to look past the fact that these people actually live in the community centre and the support worker isn’t even bothered by it. The support worker, played by Shaun Dooley, it must be said is the programmes strongest character and the funniest, a dangerously insane man with homosexual tendencies that he doesn’t really know how to express but by episode eight even this joke is wearing thin. I’m also a big fan of Joe Gilgun’s Rudy and think he makes a great central character but what it comes down to in series five is the writing being off the ball. There are too many episodes that just feel like filler with the odd hint at the overall story arc that then is rushed together in the final episode and limply flops to a climax. Not to mention the fact that they kill a character off and then have him come back moments later, it seems too set on having a happy ending to let that happen, never a strong way to end something.
In the past Misfits has provided some of the best TV moments, and was one of the freshest drama ideas that has been produced in recent times so it’s a real shame that it’s final series fails to deliver and cap off what should be remembered as a very important milestone in British drama.
The blogs been a bit rejected of late, due to a hectic final few weeks of term but what better way to get things back up and running than with one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Part two of Jackson’s prequel trilogy takes us right to the climax of Tolkien’s book but opts to change much of the story in favour of a more action packed, crowd-pleasing adventure that can be stretched out to three two-and-a-half-hour films. I was pleasantly surprised with the first offering, An Unexpected Journey, and had every reason to believe that The Desolation of Smaug would be even better. Unfortunately, though I found it to be a much more flawed affair.
One of the main issues with the first movie was the sheer amount of dwarves none of which we had a long enough time with to get to know and understand, this issue remains throughout this second movie the only dwarf I can remember the name of is Thorin and then there’s James Nesbitt and the handsome one, which brings me to my next point. The films worst moments came from ‘the handsome ones’ love story with the new female elf, Tauriel, an entirely new character invented by Jackson and his team to make up for the lack of women in the story. Tauriel herself isn’t a bad character but the corniness of the pairs romance reaches levels of corniness that the original trilogy never even came close to (OK, maybe the original’s did come quite close, but it was a bit acceptable when they weren’t major parts of the plot). I was sceptical going in about the return of Legolas, who also doesn’t feature in the book in order to give the film some sex appeal, but I was pleasantly surprised by his role, very few lines for Bloom and lots of stunningly choreographed fight scene which inject the movie with some much-needed adrenaline. It did seem a slight cop out, however, that whenever Bilbo and his gang found themselves in trouble it just so happened that their pointy-eared friend was just round the corner to come and save them. Legolas’ prominence in the action scenes also means that we see very little of Gandalf, something that could well be fixed in the extended version, but nonetheless left me feeling like there was something missing here. The films strongest moments come in the final half an hour or so when Bilbo confronts Smaug, the effects used to design the formidable dragon are simply astounding, by far the most impressive CG rendered creature you’ll see this year and the film picks up some pace and really starts to hit stride in any scene the dragon is involved in.
Overall, I may be being slightly harsh about The Desolation of Smaug and perhaps after repeat viewing the film will grow on me somewhat. But after first viewing it must be said that it was a slight disappointment. That said it certainly sets up the final part well, and my buzz for the series is still flickering away inside.
There are few game series that have managed to continue successfully on the current gen of consoles while largely retaining the same premise as their original incarnations. Splinter Cell, however, is one of the few that has remained mostly true to its roots. Despite this its last few efforts have been rather short of the quality the original trilogy had. Double Agent was fun but too short and failed to really utilise the power of these new consoles and Conviction, only being released on the 360 for some bizarre reason, I can’t judge as I haven’t played. With Blacklist though I was more than ready to jump back into Sam Fishers lightweight, custom made black boots. And as you may have noticed from this, rather rambly, opening paragraph not much has changed in the conventions of this stealth action-er but Blacklist does mark a return to form for the, once classic, series.
The missions in Blacklist are pretty rigidly structured, after you’ve done a few you know what to expect from the rest, that’s not to say though that they get more boring. Quite the contrary, as you get to grips with the control system, the AI, and different options you could take your mission it gets all the more entertaining figuring out exactly how you’re going to work your way through. Blacklist is one of the best games I’ve come across where you really can choose how you want to play, you can choose to be a ghost and leave absolutely no trace whatsoever, or a panther; remain silent but brutal. Or, of course, you smash your way through all guns blazing and kill everyone off in active combat. And for once no option seems particularly more difficult, less rewarded or, most importantly, less fun. While, as has always been the case with Splinter Cell, you want to be a slick mover and aim to get the ghost rating, in Blacklist it can be just as fun to go on the assault and you’re rewarded with gadgets and trophies for doing so just as much. When you get to the end of the main campaigns, criminally short, thirteen missions you will be pleased to find there are an array of other 4th echelon missions you can find yourself playing through. These missions actually end up being some of the most fun and hardest on the game and as an added bonus all of them have the option to be played in co-op. Its a very rare thing to find co-op playable games these days so Blacklist gives itself instantly more worth than other games that might have better main campaigns in my opinion. It seems same-console multiplayer is a dying art but it’s still a huge selling point for me. The online multiplayer is especially fun as well, offering a fresh new game modes that don’t just use exactly the same conventions as every other game.
Overall Blacklist offers one of the most complete game packages your money could buy you and though the story may leave a lot to be desired there’s more than enough extra stuff to make this the best Splinter Cell since Chaos Theory.
With director Neil Blomkamps debut, District 9, the South African sci-fi enthusiast immediately became the man to watch in the industry. It’s surprising then that it took a full four years for his follow-up, Elysium, to arrive. This time with a much larger stack of cash at his disposal and big name stars such as Matt Damon and Jodie Foster it was intriguing to see what he could do under pressure. Elysium is a new space station that floats above the world homing the rich and powerful humans while the poor suffer in slums on the polluted and dangerous Earth. Damon plays Max a former car thief who’s trying to earn an honest living is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. When he is given five days to live he makes it his mission to find a way to Elysium in order to be healed but in return for his ticket up there he must retrieve some intel which could effectively bring down the evil rich folk of Elysium and save the world’s poor and struggling people.
The film bear a number of similarities to District 9, in particular it’s ideas and message about segregation. It’s depiction of poverty stricken life has the same feel, it’s ultimately a feeling of empathy that arises from Blomkamp’s film, he clearly cares for these people who are forced to do what they can to survive. And it echoes the problems of apartheid within SA as well. However, Elysium, is a much less direct film overall in terms of it’s message. Although it’s message is loud and clear this film isn’t ashamed to be a popcorn flick. While it is still a much more raw and brutal sci-fi than the majority of summer blockbusters, it does have flashes of Hollywood gloss to it, particular the love story sub plot that forms Max’s emotional drive to want to save the world but also leaves some questions unanswered about how much of a hero our protagonist really is. Before he realises how much he cares for this love interest his main goal is just to heal himself without any regard for saving the rest of the world. But then it’s this kid of inner conflict within the characters that makes Elysium a cut above the rest. While it may have these elements to draw in the mainstream it refuses to completely bow down to the usual conventions of those elements making it a film that deserves to be well received.
One of the summer’s more entertaining blockbusters that proves Blomkamp’s unique cinematic voice. A lot more grit than most is to be found but there is overall a feeling that Elysium is a more hollow effort than District 9. But nevertheless a promising, enjoyable follow-up that proves Blomkamp can be a breath of fresh air in the industry.