Kick-Ass 2

Film Title: Kick-Ass 2The first Kick-Ass was somewhat of a surprise hit. What could have easily been a camp, unfunny parody of the biggest blockbuster genre of today turned out to be an original, hilarious, action-packed movie of it’s own. It broke boundaries, raised controversy and overall was just a great movie. So with this follow-up things looked set to get bigger and better bringing back the old cast as well as throwing in the likes of Jim Carrey and Donald Faison. The result however, is a muddled, over-the-top flop.

It was always going to be hard to follow Kick Ass because you can simply never retain that level of originality again, but Kick Ass 2 doesn’t even attempt to bring anything new to the table. It just takes the conventions and of the originals and redoes them, not as well. The plot follows Kick Ass as he attempts to assemble a superhero crew as there are now copy cats popping up all over the place. Hit Girl is trying to leave her superhero past behind and trying to integrate herself into a high school clique in a sub plot that pretty much directly steals its idea from Mean Girls. While it would be hard to argue that this movie isn’t entertaining it just doesn’t live up to it’s predecessor in any sense. The jokes are cheap, one in particular involving something called a SIC stick really highlights a drop in the quality of writing. The action scenes while still cool lack that tongue-in-cheek fanboy element that the first was littered with. It really gets to the point where Kick ass 2 becomes the very thing it sets out to parody reverting to cliche after cliche and ridiculously cheesy heartfelt moments.

While Chloe Moretz still stands out as the fantastic Hit Girl, not even Jim Carrey can save this sinking ship of a sequel that will hold your attention for its run time but fail to do anything more than that. A real disappointment that could have done without happening.

 

The Last of Us

The-Last-Of-Us-Wallpaper-HD-Screenshot-GameI’m slightly behind the rest of the gaming world in writing my review for Last of Us and I spent a while deciding whether it was worth reviewing as so much has already been said about it. But as I work through my second play through of the campaign I don’t how I couldn’t write something up about this game and why it completely deserves all the praise that it’s had. Set in a post-apocalyptic environment you play as Joel, whose own daughter was killed in the initial chaos, the main story begins 20 years on from this and Joel and his partner Tess are asked to smuggle a young girl, Ellie, across the state and get here to the elusive Firefly group as she is believed to be immune to the zombie infection and could therefore be the key to finding a cure.

The Last of Us marks the biggest step up in game story-telling since the likes of Heavy Rain, its plot unfolds like a film and the fact that you play through only adds to emotional impact. Where in the past games have failed to find a healthy balance between story and gameplay The Last of Us gets it pitch perfect. While the aforementioned Heavy Rain delivered an immersive, well-told story I would argue that it was more an interactive motion picture whereas TLOU is without doubt a video game. It takes well-known elements and conventions from games and does them better than ever before, with innovative level types which require a range of different methods to work your way through and offer a difficult challenge without being painfully hard. It perfectly brings you a familiar feel of gaming that you will have been used to for a long time, meaning it’s easy to pick up, great fun to play, and doesn’t take anything away from the games excellent story. The graphics are absolutely stunning as well, with vibrant colours bursting out when you walk through deserted cities, ridiculously detailed human features and smooth well-designed action animations that really prove how good the PS3 can be while leaving you wondering how the hell the PS4 is going to top this! The multiplayer mode is fairly basic but offers an additional way to play the game and explore the expertly designed environments with enough challenges and unlocks to keep you entertained enough to play through its own campaign-type quests.

What TLOU marks is the beginning of gaming on a large scale being an art form. It shows the world how video games can tell a story effectively and emotively in the same way films and tv shows do and still contains the features that got you into gaming in the first place. When the critics say this is the best game of all time they’re not wrong and with the PS4 and Xbox One Just around the corner this a fine way to say farewell to a fantastic console. (With GTA V yet to come as well the farewell celebrations to this generation of consoles is only going to get bigger).

 

Only God Forgives

OnlyGodForgivesGoslingFightbig5993It was right in the middle of my Freshers fortnight when Drive came out here in the UK and as I was attempting to make some new friends at uni I organised a little trip with some mates, persuading them to come to this instead Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Drive starts off very slow, you’ll know if you’ve seen it, which had me worried having talked my new buddies out of TTSS. But little did we know what it was all building up to; a gripping summary packed with stylish violence, gorgeous cinematography and Ryan Gosling in the form of his life. Two years down the line and the guys I went to see Drive with are now my best mates, and the film is one of my all time favourites. But more importantly, Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling have returned with Only God Forgives. An epic, yet abstract crime opus set in Hong Kong. We follow Julian (Gosling) a drug dealer who hides his business by hosting boxing matches. In a twisted tale of revenge his brother is killed and his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), a stubborn bitch to say the least, turns up and forces Julian to avenge his death.

It’s a much more artistic movie than Drive using visual metaphors and dream like scenes with characters you’re never sure are real or not as Julian battles both inner demons and outer in a a bloodthirsty thriller. It’s not completely unlike Drive, there is very little dialogue as Refn lets his actors and his cinematography do most of the talking with artistic expression and flourishes of brutal violence are to be found throughout. There are major differences though, Only God Forgives is not a film that’s going to please mainstream audiences. It’s not an easy film, it demands thought and time invested in it and most audiences, even a large number critics it seems, haven’t been willing to give this movie the time it deserves. While Drive was really an extremely well executed action movie Only God Forgives is an arthouse movie which takes as much from Lynch movies than it does from the action greats. It’s a dark, bitter film that may leave you with a bad taste in the mouth but it’s done so well that I can’t understand why it hasn’t got the deserved reception.

Nicholas Winding Refn can never be accused of being boring and now with a sizeable filmography behind him he has made himself one of the most interesting auteurs out there, with the minor blip of Valhalla Rising all his movies are great watches and manage to be vastly different from each other while still holding the same themes but looked at in different ways. He knows how to make a completely intriguing lead character and base a whole movie around them with very little dialogue and his cinematography just keeps getting better. For me I might slightly prefer Drive but Only God Forgives is not far off, don’t listen to the critics this is a great movie brings Refn’s name even greater clout.

The World’s End

131836340__430267cSince Hot Fuzz which was all the way back in 2007 Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost have split off in their own directions with varying degrees of success. While I have found Pegg to become a less likeable film personality than most, with boring comedies like Run Fatboy Run and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, and worse than average performances in big blockbuster like the Mission Impossible series and his portrayal of Scotty in the new Star Trek movies, Edgar Wright having only done the brilliant Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has proven he’s a director who that’s a cut above the rest. Frost has done a number of films in between but none of them have tickled my fancy really, and then of course there’s Paul which saw Pegg and Frost team up on screen but I’m steering well clear of that for now. So here we have the reunion then of a group of blokes who grew up in Somerset, loved zombie movie and Star Wars and somehow became some of the biggest names in film. But would The World’s End capture that magic that made Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz so much fun?

The first thing to make clear is that while bearing some similarities, for the most part, The World’s End is very different from it’s two predecessors, this is a much more polished film, and despite it’s utterly British premise the film feels a lot more Hollywood than Shaun and Fuzz. One of the most disappointing aspects is that the loveable nerdiness that was scattered in those films is not really apparent here, while they referenced countless movies and games, The World’s End really is striving more to get by on it’s own humour and appeal. It’s a shame though not to have this fanboy element but then The World’s End should really be judged on its own merit rather than comparing it to others. And when you do that it’s a film with very few faults. Adding more major British acting talent with Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan all having large roles it is still Pegg and Frost how hold the films most enticing characters and there performances are the best either of them have brought to the table since Fuzz. Pegg provides the majority of the film gags but Frost’s kung fu acrobatics are possibly the films funniest moments. The choreography is very well done here, Wright obviously having picked up some techniques from Scott Pilgrim and it does provide so the some entertaining action which still holds the comic over-the-top violence that there films are known for. Plot-wise The World’s End doesn’t exactly push any new boundaries and really plays out like an episode of Doctor Who with a world threatening alien invasion that is solved in a rather ridiculous way. It’s ending is easily it’s strongest and funniest moment I don’t want to give it away but to me the conclusion is what stops The World’s End from falling into the field of mediocrity.

It may not be as fun or original as the previous movies from the so called Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy but The World’s End does hold some fantastic moments and will have you leaving the cinema with a smile. It proves that these three guys are at their best when there together and let’s hope this isn’t the end of the Pegg, Wright and Frost output,

Tomb Raider

0x600If you go back quite a long way in gaming history one series that will pop out is Tomb Raider, it provided gamers with not only challenging puzzles, exciting action and fun story-lines but also a lead character that you could drool over. Despite having once been one of the most powerful franchises in video games the series took a dive in both quality and sales particularly since the 360 and PS3 came out with no releases that stood up against the competition. So it really was high time that if Tomb Raider was going to continue it needed to be completely rebooted. And with this new release that’s exactly what developers Crystal Dynamics have done. But the question is does Lara Croft still hold the cultural significance she once did? And with a new market leader, Naughty Dog with the acclaimed Uncharted series, what could Tomb Raider give us anything that sets it apart from the competition?

First of all the graphics are absolutely stunning, as you can see from the screenshot above the look of the game is one of the most attractive out this year, far surpassing the visuals games like Dishonored and Metal Gear Rising boasted and that’s no mean feat. Lara is more attractive than ever too, and the casting of Camilla Luddington as her voice was a great move bringing back the sexiest video game character of all time. The gameplay’s fun and fluid too incorporating a number of different elements making no two levels the same, with well designed gunplay, enjoyable QTE’s and gripping platform sections. It’s clear that the developing team really have worked to make this game stand out as good as can be. It’s a shame really then that so many elements of its gameplay is nothing but a straight copy from Uncharted, especially the climbing/platform aspects of Tomb Raider seem to use the exact same features from the Uncharted games. It’s obviously become more action orientated much like Naughty Dog’s equivalent. On top of this Tomb Raider’s story is much shorter than any of the Uncharted campaigns and it lacks the tongue-in-cheek vibe that makes Uncharted so much more enjoyable. It also falls short on the puzzles, in old Tomb Raider games the puzzles used to take me hours and were infuriating but very cleverly made, in this new incarnation there are only a handful of puzzles to be figured out and all of them take a maximum of about five minutes, I think they missed a trick here as the Uncharted puzzles are fun enough but if this reboot could have captured some of the old puzzle elements it could well have outdone the franchise on this aspect at least.

While I had a great time playing through Tomb Raider it ultimately fell short of the new top franchise in adventure gaming. There very little replay value here either and you just wish they ditched the pointless multiplayer mode and instead extended the story because there is a lot of potential here despite the fact it spends most of it’s time copying Uncharted. Worth a play but in the end its a hollow experience, a sequel could bring about an improvement though and the graphics deserve merit on their own.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

mgr-blade-modeBefore the release of spin off title Metal Gear Rising there was a lot of backlash from fans about its production. With original developers Kojima Productions  hitting a snag in production and eventually handing the majority of the project over to much smaller developers, Platinum Games people were worried about a drastic change in gameplay and style. The project was still overseen by series creator Hideo Kojima but took a very different approach to previous Metal Gear games moving into the hack and slash as opposed to usual stealth action.

The game is slightly awkward to get started with, with fast paced action and a lot of unfamiliar features it takes a level or two to fully get into the games flow. Once you do though Rising is a joy to play. It’s completely over the top in every aspect. The visuals are stunning and the game takes a huge amount of pleasure in bombarding you with ridiculous cut scenes involving lots of slow mo and cheesy one liners. The music is another notable element throughout fusing nu-metal with dubstep and classical its as if it was all designed by an excitable ten year old kid.  The blade mode was another factor that had fans worried about how the game would turn out, in the past games that have attempted to involve slow motion fully playable sword fighting have really not worked but the blade mode ends up becoming one of the games most lovable features. As you enter into it you can either opt to slice away every which way you please by swinging the right thumb stick all over the place or just use the attack buttons and let the game do its own thing, when you release from the mode enjoy watching the carnage you’ve caused as your opponent splits into a million pieces often giving you the opportunity to rip their guts out, explode them in your hand and replenish your health by absorbing their energy. The games gore takes everything a step further than it has too making the experience both ridiculous and completely awesome.

It does have its flaws, though. The campaign only consists of seven missions, or eight if you include the short prelude, which can be whizzed through in about 6-7 hours making it annoyingly short. There’s also too much reliance on boss fights throughout, despite all the fights being awesome fun they miss a trick by not letting you wander around slashing lesser enemies which is one of the games most fun features. It’s rescued though by having a great replay value, as you unlock Revengeance difficulty after completing making the game even harder. There’s also 20 VR missions to work through providing another challenge which will improve your technique. Metal Gear Rising is nowhere near as good as any Metal Gear Solid games that I’ve played but it was a refreshingly fun game to play through and acts well as a goofy little brother to the originals that’s extremely hard not to love.