The Croods (2013) – 7/10 CG animated adventure movie

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Cast / crew
Actor, Director and Writer Belt: Chris Sanders
Director and Writer: Kirk De Micco
Nicolas Cage: Grug
Emma Stone: Eep
Ryan Reynolds: Guy

The Croods (2013)

Grug Crood’s world is about to come crashing down around him. His teenage daughter, Eep, is gaining her independence and questioning some of his rules against new things and curiosity. On top of that, the world is about to come crashing down around him. Literally.

7/10

Chris Sanders, with this and How to Train Your Dragon (he also did Lilo & Stitch for Disney which had promise and style but big tonal problems), has moved himself into the list of directors it is certainly worth paying attention to. There are a good number of very funny moments and a generally nice tone. Nicolas Cage provides another great piece of voice work (after Astro Boy). But the title! The title is just awful. I don’t want to see a crude film on the big screen, especially not one marketed at children. This is absolutely not crude at all. (Surprising, given that it is a Dreamworks Animation project.) That said, it’s certainly not without plot or character problems. It promotes rebelliousness and disrespect for your father and the idea that they are less wise and insightful than their children; a bafflingly common Hollywood theme. You can become an independent adult without arguing and fighting and being impertinent and disrespectful but you never get that message from Hollywood. And the parting message seems to be "Follow the sun" which, I shouldn’t have to say, is remarkably nonsensical advice. Anyway, while The Croods is blighted by typical Hollywood morals and a dreadful title, it’s easy to look past that and see a fun, funny, warm-hearted film.

This movie contains comic violence

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Gran Turismo: The Real Driving Simulator 6 (2013, PS3 exclusive) – 9/10 driving game review

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Cast / crew
Director and Producer: Kazunori Yamauchi

Gran Turismo: The Real Driving Simulator 6 aka GT6 (2013)

9/10

Whether coaxing an unwanted Prius into 1st, manhandling a Stratos, marveling at the grip on a Mazda Roadster Touring Car or experiencing cornering speeds that seem beyond human comprehension in the Red Bull X-Series, GT6‘s driving experience is sublime. Every car is a joy to drive and this trumps every shortcoming the game has. On easier difficulties the AI let you win by ostentatiously slowing down (though I’m they removed this from Seasonal Events), the sound is highly variable, the track editor still doesn’t exist eight months after release, none of the career races feature standing starts or qualifying or racing exactly, the ultimate endurance races have been cut short by about 23 1/2 hours and they shouldn’t have wasted processing power on the worthless damage modelling. On the plus side, the graphics are astonishing for PS3, the lighting is wonderfully improved over GT5, the dynamic weather and time of the day is exemplary, the photo mode is as engrossing as ever, the track list is unmatched in quality with a superlative selection of original tracks backing up the old real-life stalwarts (Grid: Autosport is close), the car list is unmatched in quantity, hundreds of the car models are unmatched in quality and the (Dualshock) driving experience is totally unmatched: exquisite, an unending treat, a masterclass in response and communication.

Classified 3+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 3 or over.

Links

Basil: The Great Mouse Detective (1986) – 5/10 Disney animated crime detective movie review

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Cast / crew
Vincent Price: Professor Ratigan
Barrie Ingham: Basil
Val Bettin: Dawson
Susanne Pollatschek: Olivia
Candy Candido: Fidget
Diana Chesney: Mrs. Judson
Eve Brenner: The Mouse Queen
Alan Young: Flaversham
Music: Henry Mancini
Director, Producer and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Burny Mattinson
Director and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: John Musker
Director and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: David Michener
Director and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Ron Clements
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Pete Young
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Vance Gerry
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Steve Hulett
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Bruce M. Morris
Character Animator and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Matthew O’Callaghan
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Melvin Shaw
Original Book Series Writer Basil of Baker Street: Eve Titus
Original Book Series Writer Basil of Baker Street: Paul Galdone
Supervising Animator: Mark Henn
Supervising Animator: Glen Keane
Supervising Animator: Rob Minkoff
Supervising Animator: Hendel Butoy
Animation Consultant: Eric Larson

Basil: The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Basil takes on the case of Olivia Flaversham whose toymaker father has been kidnapped by archenemy Ratigan.

5/10

Minor Disney animation which makes up for some slow moving and uninteresting segments with a decent climax inside Big Ben and a couple of good songs ("Let Me Be Good to You" and "Goodbye, So Soon"). It’s also probably the only animated Disney movie where the hero smokes and a character offers to take off all her clothes for you. The Big Ben sequence also boasts Disney’s first blending of CGI with character animation; Ratigan’s run through the gears of Big Ben’s clock mechanisms remains superb to this day. Apart from this final section, though, the animation is merely adequate. Disney animations are generally famed for their smoothness, fluidity and convincing weight and movement. It certainly looks like corners were cut in the frame rate, especially with the Queen automaton.

This movie contains violence

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Grid 2 (2013, Steam on Windows PC) – 7/10 racing game review

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Cast / crew
Chief Game Designer: James Nicholls
Lead Programmer: Gary Buckley
Producer: Iain Strachan Smith
Producer: Toby Evan-Jones
Design Manager: Matthew Horsman

Grid 2 (2013)

A new racing series, World Series Racing or WSR, is looking to make it’s mark on the international stage and needs a driver to start making headlines with his preternatural skill and achievement. Your time has come.

7/10

There is a problem with all the cars feeling like they go at the same speed (a billion miles an hour) and there is not much differentiation in handling between cars meaning you don’t really develop an understanding with particular cars. On top of this potentially-bland driving experience, most of the non-driving aspects of Grid‘s single player game have been moved to the multiplayer or sidelined; I feel that this loses the extra interest, atmosphere, identity and personality of the Race Driver series and it isn’t restored using a flashy video with your name on it here and there. Fortunately, the driving experience just escapes blandness by making every car on the knife-edge of control and the racing experience is never less than completely thrilling. That’s not to say that it’s always fun or ever convincing. The handling is unpredictable, always, and as soon as you start getting into the faster cars it is a largely miserable if still heart-pumping experience. The game looks fantastic with a nice range of infuriatingly forgettable and interchangeable locations (Chicago, Miami, Barcelona and Paris, specifically; the real tracks are fine). There are plenty of race types (including a great overtake challenge mode) and there is a mammoth career mode to go through as well as a satisfying online mode.

Links

Infamous: Second Son (2014, PS4 exclusive) – 6/10 open-world superhero fantasy action game review

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Cast / crew

Infamous: Second Son (2014)

Seven years after the death of Cole McGrath, the problem of conduits didn’t go away but, thanks to the D.U.P. finding and imprisoning all the new conduits (now labeled bio-terrorists), things seem to be under control. One day during a D.U.P. prisoner transfer, three bio-terrorists escape and one of them comes into touch with Delsin Rowe. Literally. Rowe responds by absorbing some of the conduit’s smoke powers and heroically passing out.

6/10

How important is atmosphere? Ask Infamous: Second Son which, without it, is just a shopping list with game systems that feel well-designed but just aren’t engrossing, a muted echo of a city that doesn’t feel big enough, and a meaningless morality system that is embarrassingly unconvincing. The combat is only moderately engaging. There’s effort to keep you on your toes but it fails to be fun by being more disorienting than anything. Infamous: Second Son never asks the player to do anything; you just follow the markers on your map and your stupid moral choices are stupid and transparently meaningless and change only the game’s coda. So, without best-in-class combat, you have nothing to engage your brain. On the plus side, the Good run-through cut-scenes with your brother are excellent; fun, convincing and snappy with neither party doing anything particularly unbelievable. (On an Evil run-through they’re the same and, so, shockingly unbelievable; don’t play this on Evil.) The Good coda is quite touching. Second Son‘s major calling card is, however, the graphics. They are fantastically crisp and intricate with the effects work on Delsin’s powers routinely wonderful. Pulling the neon out of a sign is gorgeous and you never tire of seeing it.

This game contains strong fantasy violence, unpleasant scenes, adult dialogue, sensuality, bad language

Classified 18+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for adults who have reached the age of 18 or over..

Remember Me (2013, PS3) – 8/10 third-person science-fiction action game review

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Cast / crew
Art Director: Aleksi Briclot
Art Director: Michel Koch
Technical Director: Jérome Banal
Producer: Nicolas Simon
Lead Technical Designer: Gautier de Souza
Lead Technical Designer: Jacques Trombini
Lead Environment Artist: Sophie Van de Velde
Lead Character Artist: Alexis Smadja-Fellous
Lead Visual Effects Artist: Timothée Letourneux
Lead Lighting Artist: Frédéric Cros
Lead Animator: Carole Chaland
Lead Animator: Alexandre Cuing
Cinematic Director: Jean-Luc Cano
Lead Designer: Philippe Moreau
Lead Designer: Marc Pestka
Music Composer, Orchestrator, Producer and Adaptor: Olivier Derivière
Director: Jean-Maxime Moris
Kezia Burrows: Nilin

Remember Me (2013)

Nilin is rescued from a memory-wipe facility by Edge and has little choice but to follow his instructions to stay alive. As she gradually remembers more skills he quickly sets her to work as a revolutionary but Nilin is conflicted about the chaos she is causing.

8/10

Remember Me deserved rather better than to be sniffed at by contemporary critics who moaned about stuff that exists in other more lauded games (such as the very mildly unruly camera and completely normal number of enemy types). The gameplay adds welcome wrinkles to the third-person brawler with its Pressen system. These are actions slotted into custom combos that can deal damage, heal, accelerate super-power cooldown or amplify the preceding Pressen; a combined effect that you design then execute during exciting, absorbing action. The gameplay is mixed up, as is the norm, with traversal and simple puzzles but a couple of riddles crop up and are something of an unexpected highlight. The cut-scenes are smoothly integrated and beautifully directed and edited, the art design is superb while Olivier Derivière’s music is unusual, effective and fitting. Remember Me drew me in and I wanted to see it through to the end. Well worth buying; don’t forget Remember Me.

This game contains sexual swear words, bad language, adult dialogue, violence

Classified 16+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 16 or over..
Classified Violence by PEGI. Game contains depictions of violence.

Rise of the Guardians (2012) – 6/10 animated fantasy action movie review

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Cast / crew
Actor and Director Burgess Pedestrian #2: Peter Ramsey
Producer: Christina Steinberg
Producer: Nancy Bernstein
Executive Producer, Original Book Series Writer and Original Short Film Director Book series “Guardians of Childhood” and Reel FX short film “The Man in the Moon”: William Joyce
Screenplay Writer Based on “Guardians of Childhood” the Book Series by William Joyce and “The Man in the Moon” A Reel FX short film Directed by William Joyce: David Lindsay-Abaire
Jack Frost: Chris Pine
Alec Baldwin: North
Jude Law: Pitch
Isla Fisher: Tooth
Hugh Jackman: Bunny
Animation Supervisor: Antony Gray
Animation Supervisor: Steven “Shaggy” Hornby
Animation Supervisor: Philippe Le Brun
Animation Supervisor: David Pate
Animation Supervisor: Pierre Perifel

Rise of The Guardians (2012)

North, Tooth, Sandy and Bunny are Guardians of children’s dreams; that’s a job now. Nevertheless, they are surprised when the Man in the Moon (keep up) announces that a new Guardian is to be appointed, Jack Frost, but Jack is less than thrilled at the honour and more interested in having endless fun just as he has been for the last *double-checks* three-hundred years.

6/10

This is an expertly crafted movie with good voice work and animation and it is frequently engrossing through pure movie-making technique. The problem comes from the concept which sounds cool (and a similar idea certainly worked in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas) but never quite gels. I suspect that if this had foregone the Hollywood tradition of having a bad guy and made the story work with apathy, commercialism and indifference providing the reason for children not believing in Santa – excuse me, North – et al, we would have had a more convincing and interesting movie. Bafflingly, the movie ends with a technically superb scene (the editing, staging and music are all top-notch) with what might be the stupidest piece of advice ever given by one human being to another: "When the moon tells you something, believe it." Huh?

This movie contains scary scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

World War Z (2013) – 7/10 action horror movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Executive Producer: Marc Forster
Actor and Producer Gerry Lane: Brad Pitt
Mireille Enos: Karin Lane
Daniella Kertesz: Segen
James Badge Dale: Captain Speke
David Morse: Ex-CIA Agent
Producer: Dede Gardner
Producer: Jeremy Kleiner
Producer: Ian Bryce
Writer (Original Novel): Max Brooks
Screen Story and Screenplay Writer Based on the Novel by Max Brooks: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Screen Story Writer Based on the Novel by Max Brooks: J. Michael Straczynski
Screenplay Writer: Drew Goddard
Screenplay Writer: Damon Lindelof

World War Z (2013)

An outbreak of something causes people to turn into zombies. Former UN Investigator Gerry Lane is plucked to safety and reinstated to find patient zero but the ferocity of the situation is unprecedented.

7/10

Intense, eye-catching action horror movie which turns zombies into a genuine threat. World War Z‘s monsters are a remarkable achievement both in threat design (they are extremely fast and overwhelming) and in special visual effects. There is no thought crossing your mind of the technical achievements on screen, just that there is an extremely dangerous threat to Brad Pitt on screen and that is the magic tipping point for a visual effect. If it’s enough that you are in the moment of the story-telling and not, even subconsciously, dismissing it because it hasn’t convinced or engaged you, the technical achievement has been a resounding success. I hate even the concept of zombie movies (I don’t understand the popularity of raping, thieving, murdering pirates either) and the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense but I really enjoyed being swept along by this.

This movie contains strong, sometimes graphic, but not gratuitous (given the genre) violence, one extremely gory and unpleasant amputation scene and other gory and unpleasant scenes

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.

Alan Wake (2006, 360-exclusive) – 9/10 action horror game review

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Cast / crew
Conceptual Designer, Original Concept and Writer: Sam Lake
Conceptual Designer and Lead Game Designer: Mikael Kasurinen
Art Director and Conceptual Designer: Saku Lehtinen
Conceptual Designer and Producer: Jyri “Jay” Ranki
Conceptual Designer and Lead Programmer: Olli Tervo
Conceptual Designer and Lead Technical Artist: Sami Vanhatalo
Conceptual Designer and Lead Level Design and Envrionments: Jarno Wallgren
Additional Game Designer and Original Concept: Petri Jarvilehto
Screenplay Writer: Mikko Rautalahti
Matthew Porretta: The Voice of Alan Wake
Fred Berman: Barry Wheeler

Alan Wake (2006)

Thriller writer Alan Wake and his wife Alice travel to Bright Falls for a vacation but some kind of dark force takes Alice to the bottom of Cauldron Lake. The darkness soon turns its sights on Alan but he has light on his side and it turns out that Bright Falls has a more serious problem than even he can imagine. No, actually, it has a problem exactly as serious as he can imagine.

9/10

While I’m not quite clear on why Wake succeeds at the end and Zane didn’t, the story certainly dares you to make sense of it. There’s a spectacular coming together of gameplay with everything else – lighting, technology, graphics (running at PS Vita resolution, remarkably, but not looking like it at all), sound, story and ambition – to create a unified sense of atmosphere and engrossing fun. The combat is outstanding: interesting, thrilling, challenging and thoroughly satisfying. It requires you to use light to destroy a shield around every Dark One before you can eliminate them permanently with a gun. Brilliantly, combat is not even always necessary as you can try and run away. Especially on higher difficulty levels and with a lack of ammo, this proves to be a wise but challenging tactic. This is a great game and, arguably, Xbox 360′s best exclusive.

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.

Hitchcock (2012) – 6/10 biographical movie review

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Cast / crew
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Screenplay Writer Based on the book “Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello: John J. McLaughlin
Writer (Book) Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho: Stephen Rebello
Producer: Ivan Reitman
Producer: Tom Pollock
Producer: Joe Medjuck
Producer: Tom Thayer
Producer: Alan Barnette
Alfred Hitchcock: Anthony Hopkins
Alma Reville: Helen Mirren
Janet Leigh: Scarlett Johansson
Toni Collette: Peggy
Danny Huston: Whitfield Cook
Vera Miles: Jessica Biel
Michael Stuhlbarg: Lew Wasserman
Anthony Perkins: James D’Arcy
Ed Gein: Michael Wincott
Kurtwood Smith: Geoffrey Shurlock
Richard Portnow: Barney Balaban

Hitchcock (2012)

Craving a creative renaissance after the success of North by Northwest, feted director Alfred Hitchcock settles upon a lurid little horror story inspired by the life and crimes of notorious serial killer Ed Gein: Psycho. However, his movie-making partners are mortified at his descent into the world of meaningless B-movie exploitation and Hitch will need to call upon all his reserves of self-confidence and the support of his wife and constant creative partner Alma Reville.

6/10

Gentle down-to-earth, rather fictional and unofficial biopic looking at the time surrounding the production and release of Psycho and the important role that Alma Reville, Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock, played in his life and art. Viewers are likely unaware of her importance and, even though he perhaps didn’t always treat her as well as he should, Hitchcock himself knew how critical she was; his AFI Lifetime Achievement speech contains a nice eulogy and they remained, reportedly happily, married for 50-odd years.

This movie contains adult dialogue, sexuality, unpleasant scenes, brief violence

Classified 12A by BBFC. Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Links

Wrath of the Titans (2012) – 5/10 fantasy action movie review

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Cast / crew
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Screenplay and Story Writer Based on characters created by Beverley Cross: Dan Mazeau
Screenplay and Story Writer Based on characters created by Beverley Cross: David Leslie Johnson
Story Writer Based on characters created by Beverley Cross: Greg Berlanti
Producer: Basil Iwanyk
Producer: Polly Johnsen
Perseus: Sam Worthington
Rosamund Pike: Andromeda
Hephaestus: Bill Nighy
Ares: Edgar Ramirez
Toby Kebbell: Agenor
Poseidon: Danny Huston
Sinéad Cusack aka Sinead Cusack: Clea
John Bell: Helius
Hades: Ralph Fiennes
Zeus: Liam Neeson
Characters Creator: Beverley Cross

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

Now ruling over the underworld under the name Hades, Goeth, still disappointed over being killed in Schindler’s List, vows vengeance on Schindler. Schindler has acquired a beard called Zeus – sometimes standing really close behind it, sometimes even glueing it on – and travels incognito, none knowing his true identity, but Hades will not be denied and will unleash a Titan, the Titan, to sate his hatred.

5/10

This second sequel to Schindler’s List is smart enough not to pompously outstay its welcome. The monster special effects are truly spectacular but, once more, Hollywood’s utter inability to produce action sequences that follow any kind of tactics, character or story undermines things. You’ll never have any idea why or how scenes are resolved; they simply are brought to their end because their allotted time slot is up. The action is thrilling, however, and, as I mentioned, really spectacular, and that is enough to make this an adequate action movie that is much better than the first one.

This movie contains extreme violence, unpleasant scenes, sensuality

Classified 12A by BBFC. Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Links

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) -1/10 action movie review

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Cast / crew
Director: John Moore
John McClane: Bruce Willis
Jai Courtney: Jack McClane
Sebastian Koch: Komarov
Yulia Snigir: Irina
Rasha Bukvic: Alik
Cole Hauser: Collins
Executive Producer and Writer Certain Original Characters by Roderick Thorp: Skip Woods
Producer: Alex Young
Producer: Wyck Godfrey
Certain Original Characters Creator: Roderick Thorp

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

John McClane travels to Russia where his son, Jack, has wound up in prison but when they meet up it turns out that Jack is an undercover CIA agent and this was all part of his plan. Plans aren’t really John’s thing, though, so he sets about messing that up right away.

1/10

Worthless, incoherent nonsense featuring a disdainful performance from a sleepwalking Bruce Willis who essentially goes around shouting at stupid foreigners then shooting at stupid foreigners; a racist with an armoury annoyed that they might not understand his embarrassingly weak one-liners. While it certainly keeps it’s foot firmly on the gas and is over before you know it, it is at the expense of logical, flowing, imaginative, working action sequences (despite some spectacular vehicular stunt work). There’s no ambition here beyond making a film with the words "Die Hard" in the title.

This movie contains sexual swear words, graphic violence

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.

Jack The Giant Slayer (2013) – 6/10 fantasy action adventure movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Producer: Bryan Singer
Screenplay and Story Writer: Darren Lemke
Screenplay Writer: Christopher McQuarrie
Screenplay Writer: Dan Studney
Producer and Story Writer: David Dobkin
Producer: Neal H. Moritz
Producer: Ori Marmur
Producer and Unit Production Manager: Patrick McCormick
Nicholas Hoult: Jack
Eleanor Tomlinson: Isabelle
Stanley Tucci: Roderick
Ian McShane: King Brahmwell
Bill Nighy: General Fallon
Ewan McGregor: Elmont

Jack The Giant Slayer (2013)

Albion is a land with a legend of man-eating giants who once sought to rule Earth but were banished by Eric the Great. Eric was real but the legend? Nah.

6/10

Adequate action adventure which suffers from CG fatigue whereby any shots with CG in are getting to be automatically dismissed by our brains and bring us out of the experience of the movie. It’s off by just enough that it distracts us from the action or drama that is seeking to engage us. Beautiful vista? CG, bored. Spectacular action scene? CG, not swept along. Principal characters? CG, don’t care. CG is a tool but I think we, as an audience, are getting inured to it. And we’re getting picky. Unless it’s 100% invisible or perfect, or far more restrained in it’s use, it is beginning to undermine the movie it’s used in. Aside from that, Jack The Giant Slayer is entertaining, crisp and has enough unusual action beats to be worthwhile. It’s also nice to see that, even though we have a villain, everyone else is entirely reasonable, polite and amiable. I think it really is a shame that such qualities are incredibly rare in the predominantly selfish characters that inhabit Hollywood movies.

This movie contains violence, mild sensuality, unpleasant scenes, inferred people-eating

Classified 12A by BBFC. Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Men in Black 3 (2012) – 4/10 science fiction action comedy movie review

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Cast / crew
Actor and Director Husband Watching Launch: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writer Based on the Malibu Comic by Lowell Cunningham: Etan Cohen
Writer (Original Comic): Lowell Cunningham
Producer: Walter F. Parkes
Producer: Laurie MacDonald
Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg
Will Smith: Agent J
Tommy Lee Jones: Agent K
Josh Brolin: Young Agent K
Jemaine Clement: Boris The Animal
Michael Stuhlbarg: Griffin
Alice Eve: Young Agent O
Bill Hader: Andy Warhol
David Rasche: Agent X
Emma Thompson: Agent O

Men in Black 3 (2012)

MIB Agent J is flummoxed when he goes to pick up K from his home only to find a mother and child. No K but they did have some delicious chocolate milk, so that was handy. When he gets to work, K is not just nowhere to be seen… he’s been dead for forty years.

4/10

While it is reasonably entertaining, avoids the bloat common to many belated sequels and boasts a nearly film-rescuing performance from Josh Brolin entertainingly capturing the mannerisms of Tommy Lee Jones, this is still a poor movie. The peril, villain and story are impactless (and don’t fit with the first movie) but the elements that could make up some of that shortfall, inventiveness and fun, are consistently weak; not bad exactly, just underwhelming. While there’s no compelling invention, there is some fun, but it is only occasionally effective. Notably, Will Smith is not on top form here; he doesn’t have much to work with but doesn’t seem to be able to project as much energy onscreen as he has in the past and his natural charisma is slightly muted as a result. Tommy Lee Jones is fine but has almost nothing to do while Josh Brolin nearly makes up the shortfall of the two franchise stars. For some inexplicable reason, seeing him say stuff  like Tommy Lee Jones is endlessly joyful.

This movie contains bad language, extreme fantasy violence, extremely unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Surf’s Up (2007) – 6/10 animated sports movie review

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Cast / crew
Actor, Director and Screenplay Writer Filmmaker: Ash Brannon
Actor, Director and Screenplay Writer Filmmaker: Chris Buck
Producer and Screenplay and Story Writer: Christopher Jenkins
Screenplay Writer: Don Rhymer
Story Writer: Christian Darren
Shia LaBeouf: Cody Maverick
Jeff Bridges: Big Z / Geek
Zooey Deschanel: Lani Aliikai
Jon Heder: Chicken Joe
James Woods: Reggie
Diedrich Bader: Tank Evans

Surf’s Up (2007)

Cody Maverick dreams of being a surf champion like his idol Big Z. A film crew follow him as he tries to realise his dream.

6/10

Fun and nicely presented (using a talking head documentary style) but the story and characters are boringly off-the-shelf. Shia LaBeouf is perfect for centre-of-attention Cody but cannot escape the character being selfish until the script says otherwise, as opposed to until his character learns and grows. While it’s a common problem in movies, it isn’t disguised at all here. Jeff Bridges is also perfect as his laidback mentor-with-a-past. The surfing and wave animations are outstanding and compensate for the budget feeling of the remainder of the production design.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

PC vs PS3 vs PS4 vs Wii U vs Xbox 360 vs Xbox One Head-to-Head Face Off: Child of Light

Every so often, Eurogamer run a series of technical comparison reviews for games released on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

This is the latest update to the full list and you can hover over the web site icon for a very quick summary.

  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16PS4 is better than Xbox One  Child of Light

Seventh Generation

Every so often, Eurogamer run a series of technical comparison reviews for games released on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

This is the latest update to the full list and you can hover over the publications icons for a very quick summary.

  • 360 WiiU PS3 equal  Child of Light

Motorstorm: Apocalypse (2011, PS3-exclusive) – 9/10 spectacle racing game review

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Cast / crew

Motorstorm: Apocalypse (2011)

The City is in the throes of natural disaster and the Motorstorm circus travel there to race in the most extreme environment possible.

9/10

What happened to the sound and the fury? Pacific Rift and the first Motorstorm are sonic powerhouses; demonstration-level audio experiences. The de-emphasis on engine sound effects make Motorstorm: Apocalypse sound initially underwhelming. However, it is clear where the processing power went: astonishing, smooth, crisp 1080p30 graphics. This is arguably the most impressive-looking 1080p console racing game of it’s generation with spectacular environmental showpiece destruction. (If memory serves, there were four 1080p racing games: Ridge Racer 7, Gran Turismo 5/6, this and Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad) The looks are backed up with a heart-poundingly thrilling racing experience carried across highly-satisfying single- and multi-player modes including dual-login split-screen available both online and off. Motorstorm: Apocalypse is a very generous racing game with plenty of stunning environments, lots of great, highly customisable vehicles and as much quality racing action as your heart can stand. This is the best game from Evolution Studios to date but it’s commercial success was undermined by too-similar events in the real world in the shape of the devastating Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

This game contains violence, dangerous activities (for example, racing down collapsing bridges and across fallen skyscrapers)

Classified 16+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 16 or over..

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e08 Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993) – 7/10 period crime detective mystery drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Writer (Original Short Story): Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Captain Hastings: Hugh Fraser
Chief Inspector Japp: Philip Jackson
Miss Lemon: Pauline Moran
Writer (Dramatisation): Anthony Horowitz
Karl Johnson: Saunders
Elizabeth Rider: Grace
Simon Shepherd: Andrew Hall
Hermione Norris: Celestine
Producer: Brian Eastman
Director: Ken Grieve

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e08 Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993)

Poirot is sent to the coast for a holiday after the doctor, rather disappointingly, diagnoses him as "run down" rather than heroically enduring a life-ending malaise. While he’s there, a $300,000 pearl necklace is stolen from a locked box in a drawer in a room guarded by two people.

7/10

A lot of fun but the ingenious mystery and nature of the crime is not communicated quite well enough and feels like a lot of details have been left out. It is, in fact, the reverse. The writers have added story and details that weaken the central mystery instead of adding to it. The rest of the additions to the episode are a joy, however. Japp gets a magnificent gag with a teddy bear ("That’s for your boy?" Pregnant pause. "Yes."). Poirot gets his wonderful "am I going to die" face on for the doctor at the beginning and is a little put out to discover he’s only "run down" and he gets spectacularly miffed when he keeps getting people running up to him while on holiday saying "You’re Lucky Len and I claim my ten guineas!" This climaxes in a great scene where he finally meets Lucky Len.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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PC vs PS4 vs Xbox One Head-to-Head Face Off: April 2014

Every so often, Eurogamer run a series of technical comparison reviews for games released on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

This is the latest update to the full list and you can hover over the web site icon for a very quick summary.

  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16PS4 is better than Xbox One  Lego The Hobbit
  • PS4 is better than Xbox One  The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16PS4 is better than Xbox One  Trials Fusion

Rio (2011) – animated romantic adventure movie review

AmazonBuy Rio at Amazon

Cast / crew
Anne Hathaway: Jewel
Jesse Eisenberg: Blu
Jemaine Clement: Nigel
Leslie Mann: Linda
Tracy Morgan: Luiz
Will.I.Am: Pedro
Rodrigo Santoro: Tulio
George Lopez: Rafael
Jamie Foxx: Nico
Director and Story Writer: Carlos Saldanha
Story Writer: Earl Richey Jones
Story Writer: Todd Jones
Screenplay Writer: Don Rhymer
Screenplay Writer: Joshua Sternin
Screenplay Writer: Jeffrey Ventimilia
Screenplay Writer: Sam Harper
Producer: Bruce Anderson
Producer: John C. Donkin

Rio (2011)

Blu, the last male Blue Macaw in the world, is brought to Rio to mate and save the species from extinction but his value doesn’t go unnoticed by local poachers. With hilarious consequences.

4/10

Blue Sky Studio’s cash-grabbing sequel to PDI’s Madagascar is entirely perfunctory and never engaging for adults; this is one parents will have to sit through patiently. Given that it’s set in Rio de Janeiro during the world famous Rio Carnival, the use of songs is hopeless. Every original song tells you nothing, moves nothing forward, elucidates nothing. That said, there are a couple of strong moments for Lionel Richie. Rio is very bright and very colourful and I remembered the names of the two main characters, indicating that the technical story-telling is entirely adequate; it’s just that nothing interesting, informative, entertaining or exciting happens throughout the entire movie. There’s no dramatic value in the story and that leaves two or three decent quality gags to hold everything up. It doesn’t. Additionally, this is another American movie that thinks that horrendous dog drool is hilarious; it’s not, it’s repulsive. Movie-makers: please stop doing that.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Columbo s03e08 A Friend In Deed (1974) – 7/10 crime detective murder drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Richard Kiley: Deputy Commissioner Mark Halperin
Rosemary Murphy: Margaret Halperin
Michael McGuire: Hugh Caldwell
Val Avery: Artie Jessup
Director: Ben Gazzara
Writer: Peter S. Fischer
Series’ Creator: Richard Levinson
Series’ Creator: William Link
Producer: Edward K. Dodds
Executive Producer: Roland Kibbee
Executive Producer: Dean Hargrove

Columbo s03e08 A Friend In Deed (1974)

When a man ends up throttling his wife during a heated argument about her extra-marital affairs, he goes to his friend Mark for help. Mark helps him out by providing him with an alibi and making the scene of the crime look like she disturbed a burgler. If anyone can help him cover it up, it’s Mark: Police Deputy Commissioner Mark Halperin.

7/10

Solid episode with good reasons for Columbo to become suspicious that everything is not as it seems (a folded nightie under a pillow, a complete lack of fingerprints including the victim’s and an unanswered phone call). Murder She Wrote writer Peter S. Fischer supplies a terrific conclusion – one of the series’ best – requiring Falk to go from his what’s-going-on face to his you’re-the-murderer speech; which he does perfectly, of course. In fact, if Fischer could have come up with some nice little Columbo moments (he has trouble with his car but there’s nothing to work with) to augment the strong, clever plot, this could have been the best Columbo ever. As it is, it’s clever, logical and the climax is completely unforeseeable and a total joy.

This Columbo episode contains violence, mild adult dialogue

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (2014, PS3) – 7/10 fantasy RPG game review

AmazonBuy Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII at Amazon

Cast / crew
Director: Motomu Toriyama
Game Design Director: Yuji Abe
Main Programmer: Naoki Hamaguchi
Art Director: Isamu Kamikokuryo
Graphics and Visual Effects Director: Shintaro Takai
Main Character Designer: Tetsuya Nomura
Music: Masashi Hamauzu
Music: Naoshi Mizuta
Music: Mitsuto Suzuki
Lead Scenario Writer: Daisuke Watanabe
Level Design Director: Takeshi Iwabuchi
Lead Application Programmer: Daiki Hoshina
Lead Planner: Kazuyuki Shindo
Lead Planner: Masahiro Ishihara
Lead Planner: Daisuke Inoue
Lead Planner: Yui Sawada
Battle Design Director: Nobuyuki Matsuoka
Lead Battle Programmer: Satoru Koyama
Character Model Director: Masaaki Kazeno
Lead Technical Engine and Rendering Programmer: Shuichi Ikeda
Producer: Yoshinori Kitase
Lightning aka Claire Farron: Ali Hillis
Hope Estheim: Vincent Martella
Jessica DiCicco: Lumina

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (2014)

Lightning awakes from crystal stasis by the almighty god Bhunivelze and endowed with great power and a skimpy outfit and a mission to save as many souls as she can before the end of the world. Which will be in 13 days. Making things even harder is that the world has been frozen in immortality for the past 500 years and the length of time has crushed some of their souls. These are the ones God wants rescuing and Lightning will have to do whatever it takes to help restore light to their lives and save their souls.

7/10

"You’re just making things up now." – Lightning

While Lightning’s succinct statement applies to most JRPG’s (and most video game bosses in particular), it applies with such eyebrow-raising accuracy to all of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII’s story sequences that you feel that the makers must be doing it deliberately. While the story does get around to sort-of explaining why Lightning has been such an overly-focused near-automaton for three games, that’s about your lot. Everything happens because it does and thanks to good production values, especially the superb voice work and outstanding music, I was happy to break out my wry smile and watch all the story scenes in their majestically daft seriousness. You see, did I mention that you can be wearing a giant hat or silly glasses or a precariously balanced afro or a tail or big bunny ears and an impractical suit of armour or next to no clothes during these world-changing sequences. It’s got to be deliberate. The game itself is generally a lot of fun and marks the first seamless 3D open-world environment for Final Fantasy. It’s easy enough to bumble through for the experience but it has enough depth in the battle system that, on Normal and Hard difficulty, preparation and strategy will be required to succeed. There’s lot to do and you will be happy helping people with their problems, ‘solving’ mysteries and swatting cactuars in the face with a sword that is twice the size you are. I’ve grown rather partial to Lightning and the fact that I can name the entire hero cast of the FFXIII universe and some of their defining character traits and arcs speaks volumes about the quality of this much-maligned trilogy.

This game contains violence, gory and unpleasant scenes

Classified 16+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 16 or over..

Links

Frozen (2013) – 8/10 fantasy Disney animated movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Story Writer Inspired by “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen: Chris Buck
Director and Screenplay and Story Writer Inspired by “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen: Jennifer Lee
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
Executive Producer: John Lasseter
Writer “The Snow Queen”: Hans Christian Andersen
Story Writer Inspired by “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen: Shane Morris
Songs Composer: Kristen Anderson-Lopez
Songs Composer: Robert Lopez
Head of Story: Paul Briggs
Head of Animation: Lino DiSalvo
Kristen Bell: Anna
Idina Menzel: Elsa
Jonathan Groff: Kristoff
Josh Gad: Olaf
Santino Fontana: Hans
Stephen John Anderson: Kai

Frozen (2013)

After a childhood accident nearly kills her younger sister, Princess Elsa has to hide to fact that she can produce ice by magic and isolates herself while trying to wrestle control over her immense power. As the time for her coronation approaches and a public appearance is unavoidable, the last thing she needs is any more stress. That’ll be when her sister tells her she’s marrying this dude she only met that day. Gaah!

8/10

Frozen has that rarest and most intangible of movie qualities: magic. This is the magic of Disney’s second golden age inspired by Howard Ashman and so it features songs that are integral to the storytelling. Why should it be that animation and songs go together so well and that the form is timeless? Anyway, it has never ceased to astonish me that directors saw songs as something that were bolted on to Disney’s past great animated movies. The songs, if used, are always part, indeed, I would say they were the heart, of the movie. They always tell you something, illuminate someone, touch you somewhere inside. The movie wouldn’t work without the songs (take note The Princess and The Frog). The power of the song is in telling the story, not augmenting it. Frozen realises this and the result is magic.

This movie contains violence, unpleasant scenes

Highlights from Exodus 1-6

The Exodus account is one of the most famous in the Old Testament. There have been lots of books written about it and famous movies made about it. There’s another big Exodus movie coming this winter with Batman as Moses.

You see, to many, the book of Exodus appears to be a book about Moses. But it’s not. It’s deeper than that; and it’s all about God.

Exodus appears to be a book about legal minutia; about God getting into every orifice of your life with commandments and regulations and judicial decisions and stop telling me what to do. But it’s deeper than that. It’s a book that is setting up how completely unnecessary such detailed stipulations should be; something that would only be explained 1500 years later by Jesus Christ when he staggeringly condensed every law ever written into two sentences.

Exodus appears to be a book about Jehovah’s cruelty and violence. And, to be fair, Jehovah sure kills an awful lot of people. But it’s deeper than that. Each of the estimated 810,600 (Drunk With Blood, God’s Killings in the Bible by Steve Wells) deaths in Exodus was avoidable – indeed some Egyptians did – and they were a clear consequence of someone ignoring Jehovah’s warning. Exodus shows how Jehovah gives men free will to make their own choices – even if they choose punishment and death.

Perhaps surprisingly, Exodus also gives us insight into Jehovah’s tender feelings.

For example: what does Exodus 3:7-10 teach us about Jehovah?

“Jehovah added: “I have certainly seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry because of those who force them to work; I well know the pains they suffer. I will go down to rescue them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a land good and spacious, a land flowing with milk and honey, the territory of the Ca′naan·ites, the Hit′tites, the Am′or·ites, the Per′iz·zites, the Hi′vites, and the Jeb′u·sites. Now look! The outcry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen also the harsh way that the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now come, I will send you to Phar′aoh, and you will bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” ”

These verses reveal that Jehovah is a deeply concerned and caring God, not just about himself, not just about his name but also about his people. He says “I well know the pains they suffer.” What does the expression “I well know” imply to you? Barnes’ Notes on the Bible comments that “I well know” implies personal feeling, tenderness, and compassion. But Exodus demonstrates that Jehovah does more than simply look with pity or hear with compassion. He is moved to act.

Obviously, he did this with the rescue and migration of Israel out of Egypt. But Jehovah’s compassion is also demonstrated on a more subtle and personal level.

Look at Exodus 6:9-13:

“Moses later gave this message to the Israelites, but they did not listen to Moses because of their discouragement and because of the harsh slavery. Then Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying: “Go in and tell Phar′aoh, Egypt’s king, that he should send the Israelites away out of his land.” However, Moses replied to Jehovah: “Look! The Israelites have not listened to me; how will Phar′aoh ever listen to me, as I speak with difficulty?” But Jehovah again told Moses and Aaron what commands to give to the Israelites and to Phar′aoh, Egypt’s king, in order to bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.”

Jehovah didn’t cruelly abandon or intolerantly criticise or violently destroy the Israelites for their lack of faith but compassionately understood their situation and spoke positively to them about how he was going to make the future better.

Jehovah wasn’t infuriated by Moses negative vibes and patiently reiterated his instructions and, to help him, went on to detail precisely what to say and how Pharaoh would react.

Today, too, we can be sure that Jehovah cares for us deeply; he knows the pains we suffer, he knows the pressures we are under and he is moved to act in our behalf. He speaks positively to us about how He will make the future better and, to help us, gives us the Bible and Christian fellowship.

Exodus appears to be about certain things; many presume that it’s about Moses. But it’s not. It’s about God and it’s deeper and more meaningful than Hollywood and, perhaps, we might imagine.

Other highlights from Exodus 1 to 6?

Exodus 4:20. Now Moses’ sons could have been almost 40 years old at this point. “Then Moses took his wife and his sons and lifted them onto a donkey.” How big was this donkey?

5. What does Exodus 3:7-10 teach us about Jehovah? [Mar. 31, w09 3/1 p. 15 pars. 3-6] These verses reveal that Jehovah is a deeply concerned and caring God. The expression “I well know” implies personal feeling, tenderness, and compassion. Furthermore, Jehovah does not simply look with pity or hear with compassion. He is moved to act. Today, we can be sure that Jehovah cares for us deeply, he knows the pains we suffer, and he is moved to act in our behalf. (1 Pet. 5:7)

6. How did Jehovah live up to one aspect of the meaning of his name in the days of Moses? (Ex. 3:14, 15) [Mar. 31, w13 3/15 pp. 25-26 pars. 5-6] Jehovah lived up to one aspect of the meaning of his name by proving to be Israel’s Deliverer, by punishing Egypt with ten plagues, and by showing that Pharaoh and the Egyptian gods were powerless. (Ex. 12:12) After leading Israel safely through the Red Sea, Jehovah destroyed Pharaoh and his army. (Ps. 136:13-15) In the wilderness, Jehovah kept millions of Israelites alive, and he even caused their clothes and sandals not to wear out. Nothing can stop Jehovah from fulfilling his word. (Deut. 29:5)