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.

Irresistible (2006) – 7/10 psychological thriller movie review

Cast / crew
Director and Writer: Ann Turner
Producer: David Parker
Producer: Tatiana Kennedy
Susan Sarandon: Sophie
Sam Neill: Craig
Emily Blunt: Mara

Irresistible (2006)

Frazzled from a lack of sleep and a looming deadline, painter Sophie Hartley starts getting a niggling feeling that someone is entering her home and taking stuff. When she is introduced to her loving husband’s beautiful new coworker, Mara, she starts to become convinced that she has found the guilty party.

7/10

Okay, first up, I have no idea why it’s called Irresistible aside from it being a good punchy title to put underneath Emily Blunt’s cleavage on the poster. Well, on second thought, I guess that is a good enough reason but it doesn’t really reflect on the film which is, for the most part, a good psychological drama with a convincing performance from Susan Sarandon which holds up even when the original plot barges back in at the end. You see, we had already judged that Sarandon was largely paranoid and were more invested in whether or how she would escape this mental prison and how her husband would cope. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when the original thriller aspect of the movie kicks down the door and sets fire to everything.

This movie contains three sexual swear words, adult dialogue, unpleasant scenes, sexuality and Susan Sarandon’s old witch hands

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

Scoop (2006) – 6/10 Woody Allen comedy thriller movie review

Cast / crew
Woody Allen: Sid Waterman
Hugh Jackman: Peter Lyman
Scarlett Johansson: Sondra Pransky
Ian McShane: Joe Strombel
Producer: Letty Aronson
Producer: Gareth Wiley
Writer: Woody Allen
Director: Woody Allen

Scoop (2006)

An American journalism student in London is given a scoop by a recently deceased reporter and somehow winds up with the help of magician Sid Waterman to expose the big story.

6/10

Whenever Woody Allen is talking, Scoop is a huge amount of fun. Whenever anybody else is, it makes you pine for Allen and his former muses Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow. Scarlet Johansson never nails the wonderful, infectious, endearing ditziness that the part calls for. That’s not to say that this is a great script. Ian McShane’s deceased reporter always feels clunky and a lot of the lines that propel the plot are perfunctory. The other dialogue is always okay, sometimes good ("You’re a credit to your race", "It’s a family trait, actually, lack of buoyancy", "I used to be of the Hebrew persuasion, but as I got older, I converted to narcissism", "I don’t need to work out. My anxiety acts as aerobics"), but all of it is delivered brilliantly, peerlessly by Allen. His comedic charisma is simply gigantic. Scoop helps you to appreciate yet more his towering talent at dialogue delivery.

This movie contains adult dialogue and mild violence.

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American Dreamz (2006) – 6/10 political celebrity terrorist satire movie review

Cast / crew
Writer, Producer and Director: Paul Weitz
Hugh Grant: Martin Tweed
Dennis Quaid: President Staton
Mandy Moore: Sally Kendoo
Marcia Gay Harden: First Lady
Chris Klein: William Williams
Jennifer Coolidge: Martha Kendoo
Shohreh Aghdashloo: Nazneen Riza
Judy Greer: Accordo
John Cho: Ittles
Willem Dafoe: Chief of Staff
Producer: Rodney Liber
Producer: Andrew Miano

American Dreamz (2006)

American Dreamz is the talent show that can make dreams come true. For the producer and star Martin Tweed, his dream is to be more powerful and more famous. For the team supporting a beleaguered President of the United States, their dream is to have their man appear as a guest judge and regain popularity. For ambitious white trash singer Sally, her dream is to become a star at any cost. For arabian sleeper terrorist Omer, his dream is to share his love of showtunes. And for Omer’s handlers, their dream is to blow up the President of the United States.

6/10

This is a satire with some good ideas and some very strong scenes (all with Chris Klein) but it forgot to put it’s teeth in. The recreation of the biggest and most famous television show of the time, American Idol, is hopelessly unconvincing and embarrassingly underwhelming (from the mistakenly mocking theme song "Dreams with a zee" to the tiny stage to the lack of razzmatazz). Without that solid base to build on, we simply cannot suspend our disbelief for the remainder of the thunking plot and we don’t give any weight to the satirical and morality content. However, the propaganda content (look at the silly towel-heads; they want to be American really) works very well; it’s probably offensive if you’re not American.

This movie contains a single sexual swear word, adult dialogue, bad language and violence and sensuality and inferred sex.

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

Genji: Days of the Blade (2006) – 7/10 period action game review

Cast / crew
Executive Producer: Yoshiki Okamoto
Director: Yuichi Ueda
Music: Yasuharu Takanashi
Daisuke Namikawa: Minamoto no Yoshitsune

Genji: Days of the Blade (2006)

Based on actual Japanese history: The Heishi clan has quickly recovered strength by employing magic that turns soldiers into hulking demons. Yoshitsune and Benkei must do battle with the newly-restored Heishi army and giant enemy crabs but they won’t be alone. Wait, hulking demons? Just a minute, giant enemy crabs…

7/10

This is a good action game with a notoriously bad camera. A long-winded and poorly designed final boss fight threatens to leave the game on a low but Genji’s highest quality component, the music, makes the climax and end credits a pleasure to sit through. The music is unusual to Western ears, heavy on percussion and strange male choir grunts, and very fitting indeed. The action in the game allows a lot of choice: you have four characters, each with their own weapon, each with four different fighting styles. While button-mashing will get you through, there is significant satisfaction to becoming one with the ebb-and-flow of combat, dodging, blocking and timing your attacks to perfection. Despite flaws in camera choices, save points and some fiddly platforming, the music and cover-free, flowing combat allow Genji to be enjoyable and it’s a much better game than the Metacritic score and mean contemporary reviews would have you believe.

This game contains bad language and violence.

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Call of Duty 3 (2006, 360) – 4/10 World War II first person shooter game review

Cast / crew
Executive Producer: Dave Anthony
Senior Producer: Pat Dwyer
Producer: Jason Blundell
Producer Multiplayer: Daniel Bunting
Technical Director Engineering: Mike Anthony
Lead Programmer Engineering: Christian Diefenbach
Technical Director Engineering – Game Content: Matthew Kimberling
Lead Programmer Engineering – Game Content: James Snider
Lead AI Programmer Engineering – Game Content: Peter Livingstone
Creative Director: Richard Farrelly
Lead Game Designer: Jeremy Luyties
Lead Level Builder: Adam Gascoine
Lead Level Scripter: Mike Denny

Call of Duty 3 (2006)

The arrival on Normandy’s beaches was only the start. Call of Duty 3 recreates some of the battles of the Normandy breakout.

4/10

Fortunately, Activision had already committed to a yearly cycle otherwise this dreary, frustrating, unfun shooter could have been the end of the Call of Duty juggernaut before it, er, began. The late Hill 262 mission is a good one (a nightmare on most difficulties though) – urgent and interesting – backed up by the consistently excellent music. There is some impressive technical achievement with great grass, water and some very convincing lighting effects (a strong point in all Call of Duty games) and it’s cool that you can drive around a couple of the levels which mixes things up nicely.

This game contains sexual swear words and war 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.

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Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (2006) – 6/10 animated prehistoric adventure movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Producer: Lori Forte
Writer (Screenplay): Peter Gaulke
Writer (Screenplay): Gerry Swallow
Writer (Screenplay): Jim Hecht
Writer (Story): Peter Gaulke
Writer (Story): Gerry Swallow
Ray Romano: Manny
John Leguizamo: Sid
Denis Leary: Diego
Seann William Scott: Crash
Josh Peck: Eddie
Queen Latifah: Ellie
Carlos Saldanha: Dodo
Lead Animator: Aaron Hartline
Lead Animator: David Torres

Ice Age: Meltdown, The (2006)

Our odd pack – Diego the sabre-tooth tiger, Sid the sloth and Manny the mammoth – have three days to get to the other end of the valley and the safety of a boat before the end of the world. Along the way they meet a trio of possums, one of whom looks suspiciously like a mammoth.

6/10

It’s not boring, there are some fun lines and nicely animated gags. Director Carlos Saldanha clearly has a talent in staging and delivering a gag. The sequences with Scrat are very well done and new characters Crash and Eddie (a pair of possums) are fun and, again, well animated. On a deeper level, though, the story is depressingly ordinary (two people fall in love despite being fakely antagonistic) and most of the dialogue is off-the-shelf weak. To be fair, it doesn’t dent the agreeable entertainment value and this is a quality child-friendly film.

This movie contains mild bad language and peril.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Links

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