REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Nolan's back to finish off his Bat trilogy, but does the threequel live up to its predecessors?

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Spidey's back, with Marc Webb's controversial reboot finally swinging into cinemas. Can he justify it?

REVIEW: Rock of Ages (2012)

So, as it turns out, yes, Tom Cruise *can* sing. What more do you want?

REVIEW: Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott marks his return to sci-fi with this sort-of-an-Alien-prequel. But does it live up to the hype?

REVIEW: Casa de mi Padre (2012)

Yep. It's all in Spanish. And it's all batshit crazy.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol [Preview]

Last week I managed to catch a preview screening of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, where 30 minutes of footage was showcased on the biggest IMAX screen in the country.

And it was every bit as bombastic as one would expect from a Mission: Impossible film. The first sequence depicted leading man Tom Cruise, as disavowed agent Ethan Hunt, attempting to scale the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world, located in Dubai. This bit is shot with IMAX cameras, and it’s predictably vertigo-inducing – but all the while breathtaking and thrilling.

Indeed, the first film shot with IMAX cameras since The Dark Knight (2008), Ghost Protocol uses the technology only to its advantage – wide, panning shots that often veer to a vertical angle offer a real sense of dread and height in sequences such as the tower climb. From there the footage moved on to a sandstorm chase; again, every bit as thrilling, though here director Brad Bird’s cameras felt a little too frantic – reminiscent in ways of Michael Bay’s staple ‘technique’ (I use the term loosely).

The film’s plot is not dissimilar to that of the original Mission: Impossible – the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) team is forced to disband after a bombing in Moscow is blamed on Hunt. However, Cruise’s 4 man team are allowed to escape, in order to pursue the true bombers under the radar. And Cruise is definitely back on form here after the debacle that was Knight and Day (2010), though it’s the genius pairing of Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner who steal the show, providing both humour and conviction.

Other sequences shown were from the earlier in the film, when said escape of Hunt’s team occurs. It’s all standard action-thriller fare at this point – though doesn’t take itself too seriously, with Renner (who’s rumoured to be taking over from Cruise in future instalments) even questioning how Cruise’s tactics could possibly have worked; thus simultaneously addressing and dismissing both a clich├ęd escape and a damning plot hole. Sure, it might be considered a lazy get-out clause for the writers, but it’s also humourous and a cynical nod to our weariness of such tiresome plot devices.

Otherwise the script is fairly tight; Pegg’s role as the techy follows on from his role in Star Trek (2009) aptly, and his dialogue is no less suitable. Pegg’s comic timing adds an extra depth to the proceedings; not so much that Ghost Protocol becomes farcical – it is, first and foremost, an action movie – but just enough to balance the light-hearted side of things.

This is Brad Bird’s first live-action outing, after a series of animated efforts that included Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007), and it’s shaping up to be very promising. Four-quels might have been getting a bit of a bad rap lately – see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) or Die Hard 4.0 (2007) for examples – but Ghost Protocol looks set to turn that around.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is directed by Brad Bird and stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg. It arrives in cinemas 26th December 2011. You can find the trailer below:


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Assassin's Creed III confirmed in all but title

As you can probably tell from past articles, I've taken a bit of a shine to the Assassin's Creed series. In fact, it's probably one of my favourite series of all time. And even though next week's release, Revelations, promises to tie up the story of pretty much every character we've seen so far, developers Ubisoft haven't quite done with the franchise just yet (don't look so surprised).

CEO Yves Guillemot announced during a recent financial earnings call that a new game will be released in 2012 - the fourth in as many years, starting with Assassin's Creed II in 2009 - promising "another great full-fledged Assassin's Creed title next year".

And it looks like this might finally be the next numerical instalment fans have been hoping for (yes, me). Guillemot released no further details, but promised: "It will be another major release and we will be communicating more about it in the coming months."

With Altair, Ezio and Desmond's 'cycles' concluding in Revelations (though surely cycles do not conclude, but simply start over?), the path looks clear for new protagonists, locations and stories to embrace the stunning world of Assassin's Creed.

And to echo a statement in my Revelations preview: here's hoping for something along the lines of Victorian England.

Source: thesixthaxis

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Thing [Review]

Far be it from me to presuppose the outcome of this horror prequel to the 1982 classic of the same name, but… I did. Much too easily can the audience predict every single twist and turn The Thing catapults at them, long before it has chance to fire. Such is the problem with psychological horror; of course, the premise is interesting – no one can be trusted, anyone could be an enemy – but in many cases it comes at the expense of the basic horror elements.

The Thing takes place, predictably, in a remote location – this time somewhere in Antarctica, where a Norwegian team have stumbled upon a crashed alien spacecraft, and seemingly the corpse of an alien creature. After retrieving the creature from the ice, it becomes clear that it is still alive, and has the ability to imitate members of the crew – thus removing any trust the characters might hold.

This is where the psychological element comes in, and it certainly provides intriguing subject matter. It’s just a shame that The Thing gives so much exposure to its titular antagonist so early on in the film – we’re shown a brightly lit long shot of the creature just fifteen minutes in – because in doing so any tension or dread is removed.

To this end any sense of shock (or indeed horror) is dispensed with, and in a horror film that’s quite a fatal flaw. It’s lucky for The Thing, then, that it carries more generic, non-genre specific elements that work to its advantage. For instance, the acting standard is commendable; something rarely seen in horror. Led by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Die Hard 4, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World), who plays palaeontologist Kate Lloyd, the cast are believable enough to demand the audience’s attention with little effort.

Winstead is the standout; logical, thorough and down-to-Earth, Kate beguiles her way into the leader role without ever feeling thrust there. She’s an unlikely hero, but a competent and convincing one nonetheless – a refreshing change from the usual slap dash mechanics of traditional horror films, whereupon a lead would either be facetious or infallible to extreme lengths.

Instead, Winstead makes her character believable; a standout casting choice amongst a crowd of competence, which also includes Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen and Jonathan Lloyd Walker. Not one of these is any less deserving than another for commendation, unless to Winstead; indeed, the basic principle of the film – each character must convince the rest he or she is not the monster – alludes finely to the convincing nature of each actor.

But while The Thing might be able to boast an amalgam of acting abilities, its predictable nature means it suffers at the one thing it must achieve: at the most basic level, horrifying or otherwise scaring its audience (acting, after all, as a horror film). This it does not do. While the human cast might be convincing, the special effects are not, and leave much to be desired.

And indeed, much the same can be said of this prequel as a whole. Simply a rewarding ego-boost for those who like to work out films as they watch them, The Thing satisfies in very few respects; its production values may be high (special effects aside) and its acting commendable, but its predictability and in-your-face nature curtail any notions of horror or dread director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. may have wished to convey.

✰✰

See also: The Thing (1982)

Dir: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen
Universal Pictures, 103 mins, 02/12/11

Synopsis: In 1982, a team of Norwegian scientists discover an alien lifeform buried deep in an icy grave in Antarctica. They enlist the help of a palaeontologist, Kate (Winstead), to help them extract the creature, but realise too late that it is still alive. Thus begins a deadly game of cat and mouse, as everyone is suspect and nobody can be trusted...

(For The Hollywood News: http://www.thehollywoodnews.com/2011/11/04/the-thing-review/)