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2012 [DVD] [2010]
2012 [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ John Cusack
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £2.75

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, 22 Aug. 2012
This review is from: 2012 [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
John Cusack goes up. John Cusack goes down. John Cusack goes up. John Cusack goes down. So goes the plot of 2012, but it's what's going on behind him that's important.

I'd been looking forward to watching this for a while and now that I have, well, I don't know what to think.

For starters, forget the silly science going on: the likelihood of disaster-movie events actually happening is always about zero: it's just a means of setting up a load of big special effects. What is important is that those special effects look great and these certainly do.

Plot is secondary and this doesn't push the envelope. John Cussack is fleeing the end of the world while making up with his estranged family: a plot straight from Disaster Movies Class 101 but that's fine. What's lacking is the way he flees from set-piece situation to situation: when the very earth is reforming, the only safe place is the air so every escape must be achieved by plane. After the first two "will they make it?" runway escapes it starts becoming routine.

After half an hour of set-up and an hour of airplane antics, things finally get a bit a bit of variety and it's once-more entertaining.

Maybe because it's on an epic scale, the film makers decided this needed an epic running time. Had they shaved half an hour off, they might have kept the tension up but as it is, it's just too samey.

A parallel plot sees what's happening at the top political level but it feels divorced from the Cusack story. With one needlessly cruel politician being mean and an opposite bloke sermonising it's a half-hearted effort at going deeper and just a distraction when the bangs are this good.

All in, it's very good looking and reasonably entertaining with Cusack's every-man charm giving you someone you want to root for but mostly lots and lots of Big Things happening.

Alien Quadrilogy [DVD] [1979]
Alien Quadrilogy [DVD] [1979]
Dvd ~ Sigourney Weaver
Price: £9.47

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 2 Aug. 2012
A brilliant saga in an excellent box set. Alien is a masterpiece of Sci Fi horror; Aliens is the epitome of Action Films; Alien 3 tries hard and Alien Resurrection is a fun piece of Pop Corn cinema.

Alien is a five-star film, hands down. It's a game-changing piece of cinema that altered perceptions of what could be done with Sci fi and Horror: a B-movie premise elevated by craftsmanship and a powerful cast. Far from diminishing with repeated viewings, this actually gets better.

James Cameron couldn't have improved on the original so he took it into an entirely different genre and aced it with Aliens. This is an all-out actioner that revels in its violence but at the same time, advances the character of Ripley.

Alien 3 is an odd one that, even after several viewings, is hard to judge. It wants to be as good as the first movie and follows its ilk but it doesn't get close. Famously marred with production problems, this was apparently being rewritten daily and although the film pulls through without feeling chaotic, there wasn't anything left over to make it more than functional.

If Alien 3 is the poorer horror-brother of Alien, Alien Resurrection is the poorer action-brother of Aliens but it is at least fun. It pretty much breezes over how the cloning process to bring the Aliens back worked, but who cares? It worked. There's no depth to this at all but that's no bad thing: it's shot in vivid colours suggesting a cartoon quality and that's exactly what you get.

All films come in 2 versions: a director's cut and cinematic release. The differences are subtle in Alien, Aliens is longer and I can't tell in Resurrection, but Alien 3 has the most significant differences.

The extras are as good as any you will find. Each film gets its own disc charting it's progress from concept, through pre-production, production and post-production to give you a cohesive story of behind the scenes of the saga. Naturally, there's also commentary on each film which is generally insightful (the exception is Alien 3 which, lacking a director to commentate, get's technical guys who mostly discus the lighting). The remaining disc's a jumble of other stuff, some of which is good, some of which isn't, but it at least proves they've left nothing out.

Whatever your opinion on the last two films, the first two are among the greatest ever made and make the collection worthwhile on their own.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 21, 2013 9:14 PM GMT

The Abyss (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [1989]
The Abyss (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [1989]
Dvd ~ Ed Harris
Offered by alentertainment
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Diving for Treasure, 2 Aug. 2012
It's more of a slow-burner than your usual James Cameron fare but The Abyss is up there with his usual high standard. Instead of action, we have tension, the claustrophobia increasing as Ed Harris' rig finds itself trapped in greater and greater danger. The casting is excellent with Harris' world-weary Virgil Brigman anchoring a crew out of their depth, an estranged wife (Mary Mastrantonio- whatever happened to her?) and an under-pressure SEAL Team. Cameron stalwart Michael Biehn as Lt Coffey is the perfect counterpart to Brigman's professional calm.

It doesn't sound like an exciting film but it is, with the paranoia rising and rising until it reaches a head. The only criticism that might be levelled is that after Coffey's breakdown has reached its zenith, what occurs after feels slightly anti-climactic: even though the greater danger remains, the immediate danger has diminished. Still, Cameron knows his stuff and it still works: there remains peril in abundance, it's just not the violent kind.

The special effects, advanced for the time, actually hold out which is a credit to the production quality and vital in keeping the film timeless- although filmed in the eighties, this could easily be set today and not look out of place.

Inglourious Basterds [DVD] (2009)
Inglourious Basterds [DVD] (2009)
Dvd ~ Brad Pitt
Offered by streetsahead
Price: £4.87

4.0 out of 5 stars Tarantino does The Dirty Dozen, 2 Aug. 2012
The hallmarks of Tarantino are all here: set-piece scenes of sharp, witty dialogue interspersed with moments of bloody violence. If you like Tarantino, you should like this and if you like war films you may like this: you're not going to get epic battles in a Tarantino movie- it's all about the talking and the building of tension until that burst of violence. Because of these long conversations, the film can seem a little over-long but if you cut these scenes down to their mere plot function you'd entirely miss the point.

It's hard to provide examples without throwing in spoilers but it's like Pulp Fiction's burger eating scene: Jules and Vincent could just go in and shoot the guys but instead we're treated to Jules ramping up the tension, conveying a menace that violence alone wouldn't accomplish. That's basically how things run here until the final act when things come to a head in a very similar fashion to The Dirty Dozen, however, the film never lets you rest with your expectations so expect the unexpected!

Expendables [Blu-ray]
Expendables [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Sylvester Stallone
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £5.83

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fitting Title, 2 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Expendables [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The premise is an action film fan's dream come true: every action film star collected into one stellar cast. Unfortunately, the dream doesn't quite come off: there's no Van Damme or Seigal while the really big guy-, Schwarzenegger and Willis- are limited to brief, dialogue-only cameos. The action stars are thus limited to Li, Statham, Dorn and Stallone (Rourke doesn't do action and although I recognise the other two, I can't name them, so they're not "stars").

The plot is functional but unambitious: generic dictator of generic small nation is abusing his generic oppressed people all for a big drug deal. It's as though someone made the decision that casting alone would make the story awesome and left it at that.

Of course, in a movie of this type, plot is secondary to explosions and there are plenty of big bangs. Our fighters are suitably hyper-skilled with Statham and Stallone taking down a platoon of goons in under a minute.

In combining all the elements of a typical action movie we've got just that: a typical action movie with nothing to elevate it to excellence. It's a shame but it's solid work to build on and with a sequel in the offing, let's hope they can raise the bar next time.

Star Wars: Rogue Planet
Star Wars: Rogue Planet
by Greg Bear
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rogue Novel, 1 Aug. 2012
This is more sophisticated Sci Fi than you normally get from Star Wars, with more emphasis on creating a unique setting than on action. That's not to say there isn't action: it starts off with a good set-piece and ends in good form but it's key strength is it's imagination. The idea of a planet that is both alive and intermittently-appearing is a novel one and it takes on a character of its own.

The novel also does a good job of advancing the Anakin's relationship with Obi Wan and with the Force. Anakin is essentially pure-hearted but is moving on from the innocent that Qui Gon discovered. He's beginning to comprehend his power and, on the verge of adolescence, is starting to rebel. Obi Wan, on the other hand, has the difficulties a young parent with an unexpected child that he didn't ask for but must now control. The process of developing the living ships and the difference between Obi Wan and Anakin also helps illustrate just what potential there is in Anakin.

Without the Empire, Tarkin is a good choice for ambitious head-villain while the Blood Carver provides a satisfyingly vicious immediate protagonist.

If you're going to read the New Jedi Order books, I'd recommend you read this first as this Rogue Planet hasn't finished with the Star Wars Galaxy.

It does travel slowly, mind: I remember being underwhelmed the first time I read this but I've gradually become more appreciative. In among a raft of titles with varying quality, this one stands out as one of the most memorable. Most planets that aren't in the movies are pretty forgettable but Zonoma Sekot is one that will stick with you.

Star Wars: Cloak of Deception
Star Wars: Cloak of Deception
by James Luceno
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Something's rotten on the planet Coruscant, 1 Aug. 2012
If you thought Phantom Menace was a slow start to the saga, be prepared for an even slower prelude. The politics of the Republic take centre stage as the book's purpose seems to be to illustrate the weakness of the senate and Chancellor Volorum in particular. Fair enough for the intent but it's pretty dry stuff. The smattering of action seems to be a bit of a token gesture: the opening scene, for example, has the chance to see things start with a bang but has Qui Gon and Obi Wan floating in a box. If the focus is on politics, we should expect intrigue in place of action but that's not hugely interesting either.

On the plus side, the plot's weakness inadvertently does its job of fleshing out Republic politics by showing the pettiness that's driving it into the mire. You also get to see more of Qui Gon: the only chance you get from the mainstream paperbacks (you have to track down the Jedi Apprentice books otherwise).

This feels like a cash-in opportunity to go with the film which isn't a problem if the book's good. This isn't. If you're after a more entertaining read, get Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter. It's a much more exciting prelude.

Star Wars: Darth Maul Shadow Hunter
Star Wars: Darth Maul Shadow Hunter
by Michael Reaves
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Straight to the kill!, 1 Aug. 2012
This is a chase story, pure and simple, starring one of Star War's coolest characters. We didn't see enough of him in his limited screen time so here's a chance to see him in full predator mode. The potent force we're dealing with here is well illustrated in a scene where Darth Maul is pursuing his target through a crowd of people, using the force to blast them aside as he sprints on relentlessly. It's an image that encapsulates the book: fast and brutal. This book may be leaner than most in terms of pages but that's because it carries no fat, it's lithe as it's protagonist. Despite this, Michael Reaves somehow manages to fit in enough space to deliver well-developed good guys to be the prey (look out for references to these in the Medstar and Coruscant Nights books). If you're new to Star Wars books, this is a really good way to get involved.

Green Lantern (Extended Cut) - Triple Play (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [2011] [Region Free]
Green Lantern (Extended Cut) - Triple Play (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [2011] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Ryan Reynolds

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Warning: Leaves You with Strong Feelings of "Meh", 18 July 2012
This film coasts along just underneath the watermark of average from start to finish, inspiring neither love nor hatred, merely a "meh". Anyone unfamiliar with the Green Lantern will come away only a little wiser. Pesumably there's something unique about one of DCs second-tier characters but it isn't evident here. In a Marvel vs DC sense, playboy Greenie (I can't remember his name, he made that much of an impact) seems most like Ironman: a comparison that underlines the character's lack of charm. Ironman was another comic film where most of the world knew little of the hero beforehand but Tony Stark charmed his way into the hearts of many whereas Green Lantern barely registered on the senses.

The plot was very much by-the-numbers (which is also how the CG seemed rendered) with a blandness that made you forget the script problems that abounded. Everyone seemed to take everything in their stride with barely an utterance of surprise: Blake (is it?) gets whisked away by a green ball, thinks nothing of it, discovers an alien spaceship, thinks nothing of it and is then whisked away to Lantern Land and told he's Saviour of the Universe which is also, apparently normal. It's like the subject of a hypnotism show being told he's a chicken and just nodding agreement.

The chief baddie, Parallax, aside from sounding like a laxative, barely registers. Apparently bound in a prison long ago, it only takes some people crashing nearby to wake him up and allow him to escape (suggesting his "prison" was simply a bed). For a few minutes he feeds on fear, getting stronger and stronger and then disappears until the final act. His minion substitute on earth is afflicted with a condition that turns him into the Elephant Man for reasons that elude me while his generic-evil-senator dad plots in a generic-evil-senator way.

Ryan Reynolds gurns his way across the movie in an inoffensive way, apparently unworried by his dangerous new profession. And why not? His new Green Lantern powers allow him to do anything he wills. Even Superman has some limits: this power seems to trivialise all danger to the point that the bad guy can't be bothered to turn up. It's maybe why it runs on lackadaisically for 110 minutes.

Don't go looking for twists here. This storytelling is as basic as you will find outside a school creative writing class but at least it doesn't bog you down with pretensions of being something else
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 2, 2012 1:02 PM BST

Turok Dinosaur Hunter (Nintendo 64)
Turok Dinosaur Hunter (Nintendo 64)

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cry Turok and let slip the Fog of Bore!, 18 July 2012
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
Dinosaurs + big guns should = success but this is a concept let down by shoddy visuals, shoddier controls and some shoddily-conceived ideas.

As soon as you start the game, you will notice a dense fog stretching out before Turok. He's in a hot, misty place but this not for atmosphere. It seems poor old Turok suffers from cataracts and sees the world through perpetually clouded vision. His is a frightening world where constantly respawning enemies rush out of the dark every 30 seconds. Yes, this is an early N64 game but even at launch, but no other game suffers fogging like this.

Fortunately for Turok, he spends most of the time with his limited vision stuck firmly on the floor. This is because, despite being a first-person shooter, the designers decided to throw in precision jumping like a platformer. With only two paces (run and walk), your heart is in your mouth every time you have to jump across a string of tiny ledges, keenly aware that when you miss, it'll be another plunge to the bottom of a hole and then a long climb back up again. It's completely out of place, adds nothing and throws up barriers between what should be fun in the game: shooting.

This is something that Turok does very well: there's an awesome array of inventive and powerful weapons to collect and unloading them in your enemy's face is undoubtedly fun. Before Goldeneye nailed the control setup for first-person shooters, games struggled to get things like targeting to be an instinctive and accurate experience and Turok is no exception, however, because of the fog, once visible, your enemies are never far away so hitting them should be no problem.

There should be no shortage of enemies either for they are constantly respawning. It means that you've always got plenty of action to contend with but it also means you've never got an area cleared. This disrupts any efforts to explore which, given your limited vision, requires a lot of wandering.

Finally, this is one of the few N64 games that bound itself to the hateful memory cards. It was a common curse of the early games, rightly abandoned and no fault of Turok's, but if you don't have a memory card, you can't save, so you have to play it from start to finish in one go.

I know Turok has its supporters, some of whom stuck by it even after Goldeneye, but I just can't like it. I've gone back to it several times intending to play it through but just can't be bothered to go through the tedium that occupies everything out of combat.

(The T-Rex fight is pretty cool, though)

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