Knowing (2009) – 7/10 disaster horror movie review

Cast / crew
Rose Byrne: Diana
Chandler Canterbury: Caleb Koestler
Ben Mendelsohn: Phil Beckman
Director and Producer: Alex Proyas
Nicolas Cage: John Koestler
Story and Screenplay Writer and Co-Producer: Ryne Douglas Pearson
Producer: Todd Black
Producer: Jason Blumenthal
Producer: Steve Tisch
Screenplay Writer: Juliet Snowden
Screenplay Writer: Stiles White

Knowing (2009)

Caleb Koestler receives an envelope from a fifty-year-old time capsule containing children’s pictures of the future but his envelope doesn’t contain a picture; it contains a double-sided sheet of numbers scrawled down helplessly by a young girl. He feels compelled to take it home with him where his Dad, John, becomes convinced that the numbers are prophetic.

7/10

This is significantly more interesting and moving than the doom-saying disaster epic you may think it would be. In fact, I’d say it is more of a horror film. While the plot does feel like it has a couple of problems (Why does Cage go to Manhattan? Purely to be an unneeded audience surrogate.) and I suspect one or two plot strands were brutally slashed down to a word or two (the authorities knowing and the ever-hotter weather), Knowing connects emotionally. Cage is generally on good form here (he really sells the climax) and even gets to go briefly nuts on a tree with a baseball bat. Director Alex Proyas stages things surely and delivers two impressively harrowing disaster scenes even to those of us used to seeing screen destruction. This is clearly going to be a slightly forgotten movie and it’s a shame more people don’t know about it.

This movie contains Mild swear words, harrowing scenes of disaster, scary scenes

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

State of Play (2009) – 7/10 hero journalist conspiracy drama movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Kevin MacDonald
Writer (Screenplay): Matthew Michael Carnahan
Writer (Screenplay): Tony Gilroy
Writer (Screenplay): Billy Ray
Writer (Original Television Series): Paul Abbott
Producer: Andrew Hauptman
Producer: Tim Bevan
Producer: Eric Fellner
Executive Producer: Paul Abbott
Russell Crowe: Cal McAffrey
Ben Affleck: Stephen Collins
Rachel McAdams: Della Frye
Robin Wright Penn: Anne Collins
Jason Bateman: Dominic Foy
Jeff Daniels: George Fergus
Helen Mirren: Cameron Lynne

State of Play (2009)

Washington Globe star reporter Cal McAffrey is assigned to investigate the shooting of a teenager and a businessman when the suicide of a female political aide his friend, Congressman Stephen Collins, into the spotlight over his relationship with her.

7/10

Entertaining conspiracy drama which is certainly one of the better hero-journalist movies, feels impressively reminiscent of rose-tinted seventies movies and pleasingly ticks all the cliché boxes in a crisp, polished manner. Fat Russell Crowe is excellent (as he always is at the moment) and more than makes up for a slight weakness with Ben Affleck (looks too young; the movie infers he’s the same age as Crowe) and Rachel McAdams (audience cipher, no more). This is better than the original BBC TV series simply because it tells it’s story clearly all the way until the end. This is another quality movie from Kevin MacDonald (after Touching the Void and The Last King of Scotland).

This movie contains sexual swear words, adult dialogue, bad language and graphic violence.

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

Crash Time III aka Alarm for Cobra 11: Highway Nights (2009, 360) – 7/10 open-world action racing game review

Cast / crew

Crash Time III aka Alarm for Cobra 11: Highway Nights (2009)

Semir and Ben investigate the bombing of police vehicles as a major international conference looms in the city.

7/10

Wrong-footing us from the get-go, the third, and best, Synetic action racing title in the Alarm for Cobra 11 series has a easy-to-understand menu where the active item is clearly highlighted. This staggering concession to usability extends to the in-game action as all frustrations from previous entries have been removed. Most of the time, you cannot fail a mission, you simply succeed less well and get assigned a out-of-five star-rating upon completion. Synetic also add an in-car shooting mechanic and it works really well and makes a satisfying alternative to smashing cars off the road Chase HQ-style. Dialogue remains endearingly stilted ("in famous" instead of "infamous") but it always wins me over and I very much welcome the light tone. There’s even some Fourth Wall-breaking (‘Man… this is the third time the Synetic guys have made me drive a tank’) which is odd but funny and welcome. There’s still, uniquely, cars with caravans and this remains, I think, the only game where you can race articulated lorries, which is tremendous fun.

This game contains bad language

Classified 7+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 7 or over.

Links

Planet 51 (2009) – 4/10 open-world action racing movie game review

Cast / crew
Original Conception: Ignacio Pérez Dolset
Original Conception: José Manuel García Franco
Game Director: José Manuel García Franco
Producer: Gabriel Ortas

Planet 51 (2009)

Teengaer Lem is happily going about his business – earning a bit of money, taking photos, racing and, erm, collecting cars and bikes and lawnmowers – when a human lands on his planet and causes chaos.

4/10

What’s most annoying about this bland open-world action racing game is that I really want an open-world game where you go around being nice and helping people and don’t go around unavoidably running them over and murdering them and having horrible language hurled at you and insane decisions foisted upon you. I like that you can’t car-jack but that the driver gives you a lift. I like that you can mow people’s lawns. I like that you can deliver newspapers and cars and clean the circus and round up stray dogs. But I also want it to be fun; it must be fun. This isn’t, not even a bit, and the poor production values, broken cut-scenes, half-told story, unresponsive controls, invisible walls, and inherited ugly character design doesn’t help.

This game contains violence.

Classified 7+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 7 or over.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) – 5/10 queasily animated science fiction movie review

Cast / crew
Writer for the Screen and Director: Phil Lord
Writer for the Screen and Director: Christopher Miller
Producer: Pam Marsden
Writer (Original Book) Cloudy With a Chance of: Judi Barrett
Illustrator (Original Book): Ron Barrett
Bill Hader: Flint Lockwood
Anna Faris: Sam Sparks
James Caan: Tim Lockwood
Will Forte: Joe Towne
Head of Story: Kris Pearn
Senior Animation Supervisor: Peter Nash
Supervising Animator: James Michael Crossley
Supervising Animator: Derek Friesenborg
Supervising Animator: Alan Hawkins
Supervising Animator: Jayson Price
Supervising Animator: Chris Williams

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Permanently disastrous scientist Flint Lockwood finally hits the big time when he invents a machine that converts water to food and accidentally launches it into the clouds.

5/10

While it is crisply paced and technically efficient (it made me forget to drink my drink, the voice work is excellent and the epilogue works emotionally), this movie suffers from a conceptual error that audiences would enjoy seeing lots of giant, realistically animated food for eighty minutes and not feel rather queasy. To make sure they are truly nauseous, the third act sees a naked overweight man wear the carcass of a man-size cooked chicken.

This movie contains mild bad language.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

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Night at the Museum 2 (2009) – 6/10 family-friendly fantasy adventure movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Shawn Levy
Ben Stiller: Larry Daley
Amy Adams: Amelia Earhart
Owen Wilson: Jedediah
Hank Azaria: Kahmunrah
Christopher Guest: Ivan the Terrible
Alain Chabat: Napoleon
Steve Coogan: Octavius
Ricky Gervais: Dr. McPhee
Bill Hader: General Custer
Jon Bernthal: Al Capone
Robin Williams: Teddy Roosevelt
Producer: Shawn Levy
Producer: Chris Columbus
Producer: Michael Barnathan
Writer: Robert Ben Garant
Writer: Thomas Lennon
Shawn Levy: Infomercial Father
Hank Azaria: Voice of The Thinker and Abe Lincoln

Night at the Museum 2 (2009)

Larry Daley is now running a successful business off the back of a couple of his own inventions when he finds out that the Natural History museum is being refitted and the old exhibits put into permanent storage. He decides that won’t do and sets about restoring his friends to their proper place because that’s how the world works in Hollywood and, no, it doesn’t make any sense but that’s what happens.

6/10

Though it replaces the positive message of the first (the past is worth learning about) with a standard selfish Hollywood message (only do a job you love; something commonly spouted by people who have no fiscal necessity to work), this is a fun, energetic family-friendly adventure with, surprisingly, an actually funny scene or two (especially an uncredited Jonah Hill’s Smithsonian security guard versus Ben Stiller).

This movie contains violence.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot The Clocks (2009) – 7/10 period murder mystery TV review

Cast / crew
David Suchet: Hercule Poirot
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Writer (Screenplay): Stewart Harcourt
Frances Barber: Merlina Rival
Stephen Boxer: Christopher Mabbutt
Tom Burke: Lt. Colin Race
Phil Daniels: Inspector Hardcastle
Beatie Edney: Mrs Hemmings
Guy Henry: Matthew Waterhouse
Anna Massey: Miss Pebmarsh
Geoffrey Palmer: Vice Admiral Hamling
Tessa Peake-Jones: Val Bland
Ben Righton: Constable Jenkins
Lesley Sharp: Miss Martindale
Abigail Thaw: Rachel Waterhouse
Jason Watkins: Joe Bland
Jaime Winstone: Sheila Webb
Producer: Karen Thrussell
Director: Charles Palmer

Poirot, Agatha Christie’s Clocks, The (2009)

A typist is booked by a blind woman to be at her house at 3:00pm but when she arrives she finds four clocks set to 4:13. And a dead body, of course.

7/10

Good episode of Poirot because it is, however mildly, fun, a quality that is in short supply in the feature-length adaptations. On top of this, the clues, characters and mystery are presented clearly and kept in focus and, while Poirot does keep a clue away from the audience (a marriage certificate), there are enough other clues to the how and who to get us most of the way there if we’re paying attention. The support cast do a good job with Phil Daniels balancing his character delicately and Tom Burke providing a surprisingly welcome romantic element.

This Poirot, Agatha Christie’s episode contains adult dialogue and brief gory violence, graphic fatal car accident.

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

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G-Force (2009) – 6/10 fantasy action adventure movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Hoyt H. Yeatman, Jr.
Writer: Cormac Wibberley
Writer: Marianne Wibberley
Writer (Original Story): Hoyt Yeatman IV
Writer (Original Story): David P.I. James
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Executive Producer: David P.I. James
Bill Nighy: Saber
Will Arnett: Kip Killian
Zach Galifianakis: Ben
Nicolas Cage: Speckles
Sam Rockwell: Darwin
Jon Favreau: Hurley
Penélope Cruz: Juarez
Steve Buscemi: Bucky
Tracy Morgan: Blaster

G-Force (2009)

The FBI are about to shut down G-Force, a team of genetically-engineered guinea pigs, and to avoid the axe, they decide to run their first live mission and prove how useful they can be.

6/10

This is a reasonably fun, furiously-paced action movie with unexpectedly expensive-looking special effects. It simply never seems to be a movie warranting such investment (Box Office Mojo reports a $150 million production budget) as the script is weak and lifeless. It feels like someone took a typical bottom-shelf action script and swapped human characters for guinea pigs and called it a day. As it is, the special effects are absolutely the best thing about the movie and help bring the quality voice-work of Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi and Jon Favreau to life.

This movie contains scenes of peril.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot Three Act Tragedy (2009) – 5/10 period murder mystery TV review

Cast / crew
David Suchet: Hercule Poirot
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Writer (Screenplay): Nick Dear
Jane Asher: Lady Mary
Kate Ashfield: Miss Wills
Suzanne Bertish: Miss Milray
Anna Carteret: Mrs Babbington
Anastasia Hille: Cynthia Dacres
Art Malik: Sir Bartholomew Strange
Tony Maudsley: Supt Crossfield
Kimberley Nixon: Egg
Ronan Vibert: Captain Dacres
Tom Wisdom: Oliver Manders
Martin Shaw: Sir Charles Cartwright
Producer: Karen Thrussell
Director: Ashley Pearce

Poirot, Agatha Christie’s Three Act Tragedy (2009)

At a cocktail party hosted by famous actor and Poirot’s friend Sir Charles Cartwright, Reverend Stephen Babbington collapses and dies after sipping his cocktail. It looks like poison but his glass is clean and the inquest labels it a tragedy and Poirot agrees. A month later, however, the guests reassemble minus Cartwright and Poirot, and someone else, Sir Bartholomew Strange, dies in the exact same manner. This time there is no question: it is murder – nicotine poisoning – and there’s a prime suspect, new butler Ellis, but there’s still no poison in the glass.

5/10

This is a clumsy episode where adapter Nick Dear and director Ashley Pearce show no understanding of the plot. They don’t make enough of the SPOILER red-herring investigation into what connects the parson and the psychiatrist, fail to setup the motive (it carries no meaning for modern viewers) and ostentatiously and suspiciously avoid showing SPOILER the butler Ellis. As with so many of the two-hour Poirot’s, what’s really missing is humanity and humour and they fail to connect to the audience emotionally. This is a story about the shattering of the trust of friendship but you’d never tell. So instead of being a Three Act Tragedy, what we’ve got is simply Three Acts.

This Poirot, Agatha Christie’s episode contains unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) – 7/10 animated prehistoric adventure movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Co-Director: Michael Thurmeier
Producer: Lori Forte
Producer: John C. Donkin
Executive Producer: Chris Wedge
Writer (Screenplay): Michael Berg
Writer (Screenplay): Peter Ackerman
Writer (Screenplay): Mike Reiss
Writer (Screenplay): Yoni Brenner
Writer (Story): Jason Carter Eaton
Ray Romano: Manny
John Leguizamo: Sid
Denis Leary: Diego
Simon Pegg: Buck
Seann William Scott: Crash
Josh Peck: Eddie
Queen Latifah: Ellie
Carlos Saldanha: Dinosaur Babies / Flightless Bird
Chris Wedge: Scrat

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)

After falling through a hole in the ice, Sid discovers three large abandoned eggs and decides to adopt them. No-one recognises the creatures when they hatch but they’re large and like swallowing playmates whole. Then Sid discovers that the eggs weren’t as abandoned as they thought and Manny, Diego, Crash, Eddie and a pregnant Ellie go on an adventure to rescue him.

7/10

Another good outing for the Ice Age franchise with some good animated gags, plenty of pace, excitement and fun with more outstanding Scrat sequences to remind us of the Chuck Jones heyday of Wile E. Coyote. It’s also the kind of movie that sends you out of the cinema buzzing on a wave of positive energy. As with the first sequel The Meltdown, better than expected.

This movie contains peril.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

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Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard (2009, PS3) – 5/10 mildly satirical third-person shooter game review

Cast / crew
Will Arnett: Matt Hazard
Neil Patrick Harris: Wallace "Wally" Wellesley III
Olivia Hack: QA / Evil QA
Lead Producer: Bryan West
Producer: Chris Puente
Lead Game Designer: Dave Ellis
Lead Level Designer: Michael Nelson
Writer: Dave Ellis
Lead Technical Programmer: Doug Cox
Lead Gameplay Programmer: Allan Campbell
Motion Capture Performer Matt Hazard & all various other characters: Richard Dorton
Motion Capture Performer Matt Hazard: John DeMerell

Eat Lead: Return of Matt Hazard, The (2009)

Reprising his role as gaming’s greatest hero once more, Matt Hazard is confused and dismayed to find himself getting killed at the end of the first chapter in a surprise twist. A hacker helps him survive but the game designers keep throwing in enemies from Hazard’s past to get rid of him once and for all.

5/10

This is a fine idea which certainly raises a smile and has potential for some delightful gameplay anachronism but look at the cover. Why would anyone buy a game with such a ugly cover? Look at Hazard’s ill-proportioned head. That’s not the face of a hero, of someone a player wants to inhabit. Look at the guns. The assault rifle has been made as big as the mini-gun which is the reason the picture is subconsciously wrong. Ironically, a photoshop done to balance the picture ends up unbalancing the viewer’s mind and puts off potential buyers without them knowing why. Once in game, there’s good music and voice work but it’s consistently a little clunky control-wise (aim and shoot are on the wrong buttons for PS3) and the level / gameplay designers simply have no idea of how to make battles fun, flowing and exciting. And the potential for delightful gameplay anachronism? Disappointingly, the anachronism isn’t even there, delightful or otherwise.

This game contains 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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James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game (2009, PS3) – 6/10 movie action game review

Cast / crew
Lead Game Designer: Benoit MacOn

James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game (2009)

6/10

This is a worthwhile video game prequel tie-in to the movie with a surprising amount to do (action and collection goals) and a combat system that offers a couple of goodies (special powers and a range of weapons all with generous ammo). The first ride on the Banshee is very nice with James Horner’s music and the spectacular scenery combining perfectly. The two runs through the game as a Na’vi and a human are also, surprisingly, not through recycled scenery. They use different environments and require different tactical approaches. As a human, you’re essentially indestructible and unstoppable as long as you don’t get numerically overwhelmed. As a Na’vi, you can be mown down in a matter of seconds at any time. It makes an intriguing difference.

Classified 12+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 12 or over.
Classified Violence by PEGI. Game contains depictions of violence.
Classified Bad Language by PEGI. Game contains bad language.

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Panique au village aka A Town Called Panic (2009) – bonkers Belgian animated adventure movie review

Cast / crew
Writer (Scenario): Stéphane Aubier
Writer (Scenario): Guillaume Malandrin
Writer (Scenario): Vincent Patar
Writer (Scenario): Vincent Tavier
Director: Stéphane Aubier
Director: Vincent Patar
Producer: Philippe Kauffmann
Producer: Vincent Tavier
Stéphane Aubier: Cowboy, Max Briquenet, Mr Ernotte
Vincent Patar: Cheval, Maman Atlante

Panique au village aka A Town Called Panic (2009)

After a birthday present for Horse ends up with the destruction of their house and a bill for 500000000000000000000000000000000 bricks, Cowboy and Indian think it can’t get any worse. After rebuilding the following day, the trio awake to find that someone has stolen their freshly constructed house.

8/10

Mad but breathlessly, addictively, exhaustingly brilliant animated adventure which remains relentlessly positive and upbeat and has a very sweet core. And mad. This is one of those films made by people whose minds clearly do not work in any way like ours. I suspect you would not predict a single sequence or story beat throughout the entire movie and, in this case, it’s all the better for it. Essential. And mad.

This movie contains a mild swear word and extreme comic violence.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Dragon Age: Origins (2009) – 8/10 fantasy action role-playing game review

Cast / crew
Executive Producer: Dan Tudge
Project Director: Dan Tudge
Executive Producer: Mark Darrah
Project Director: Mark Darrah
Lead Designer: Brent Knowles
Lead Designer: Mike Laidlaw
Lead Designer: James Ohlen
Art Director: Dean Andersen
Lead Programmer: Ross Gardner
Voice Over Producer and Director: Caroline Livingstone
Producer: Derek French
Producer: Vanessa Kade
Producer: Kevin Loh
Producer: Kyle Scott
Engine Architect: Derek Beland
Engine Architect: Paul Roffel
Peter Renaday: Duncan
Kate Mulgrew: Flemeth
Tim Curry: Arl Howe
Corinne Kempa: Leliana
Simon Templeman: Loghain
Claudia Black: Morrigan
Steven J. Blum: Oghren
Mark Hildreth: Sten
Susan Boyd Joyce: Wynne
Jon Curry: Zevran

Dragon Age: Origins (2009)

The Land of Ferelden, home to humans, elves and dwarves, is under attack by a Darkspawn horde invigorated by the discovery and release of an Archdemon. As the Grey Wardens prepare to do their duty and lead Ferelden’s army into battle – for only they can slay an Archdemon – the treacherous Teryn Loghain is about to seize this opportunity to take control of the country.

8/10

This turns out to be a great game thanks to the sheer weight of fun, interesting, intriguing and surprising gameplay and story that follows an uninvolving start – something typical of the genre. Story writers for games just refuse to learn that the player will not have an emotional attachment just because you tell them a character is your mother or father. So you aren’t bothered when they’re killed. Later on, after spending fifty hours with other characters, you are bothered when they leave you to become a wandering drunk, you stubborn, stupid entirely understandable fool. While there’s no sense that the world carries on without you and characters with their clothes off look bizarre, the game (on PC) looks terrific, quests frequently feature interesting decisions, the generous spots of humour show welcome humanity, and the rewarding combat is as simple or tactical as you want it (and can be altered during gameplay at any time without penalty, thank you). Though it should have just been called Dragon Age. What is it with Americans and their subtitles? They sure love them some colons.

This game contains bad language, adult dialogue and strong, gory violence with an hilarious option to leave you peppered with gravity resistant blood splatters that are way too big and sex scenes.

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

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King of Thorn (2009) – 7/10 science fiction horror anime movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama
Writer (Screenplay): Kazuyoshi Katayama
Writer (Screenplay): Hiroshi Yamaguchi
Writer: Akiko Yajima
Kana Hanazawa: Kasumi Ishiki
Toshiyuki Morikawa: Marco Owen
Akiko Yajima: Tim

King of Thorn (2009)

Medusa, an incurable disease that turns its victims to stone after a month or two, is sweeping the world. After a while, pharmaceutical giant Venus Gate Corporation announces that is has developed suspended animation modules that can keep the disease at bay until such a time as a cure is found. Kasumi Ishiki has won a single ticket from the lottery held for the 160 places available but is devastated that her twin sister Shizuku, who also has the disease, cannot get in. When she awakes from her suspended animation module, Kasumi awakes to find the facility massively overgrown with giant thorns and horrible monsters: just how long has she been asleep?

7/10

Spectacular, superbly animated, relentlessly paced monster movie with a slightly baffling but intriguing meta-physical climax. As a suspenseful chase movie it grabs hold and doesn’t let go; as a existential sci-fi, it just about presents the explanation in a manner you can understand (so better than most Japanese animations, then) but it still comes across as somewhat obtuse and requires post-movie consideration to see that the makers probably did know what they were doing.

This movie contains suicide themes and extremely gory violence, unpleasant and extremely gory scenes and non-sexual nudity.

Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009) – 2/10 animated supernatural drama movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer (Original Story): Charles Dickens
Jim Carrey: Scrooge, Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge as a Young Boy, Scrooge as a Teengage Boy, Scrooge as a Young Man, Scrooge as a Middle Aged Man, Ghost of Christmas Present, Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Gary Oldman: Bob Cratchit, Marley, Tiny Tim
Colin Firth: Fred
Bob Hoskins: Fezziwig, Old Joe
Robin Wright Penn: Fan, Belle
Cary Elwes: Portly Gentleman #1, Dick Wilkins, Mad Fiddler, Guest #2, Business Man #1
Fionnula Flanagan: Mrs. Dilber
Producer: Steve Starkey
Producer: Robert Zemeckis
Producer: Jack Rapke
Writer (Screenplay): Robert Zemeckis

Christmas Carol, Disney’s A (2009)

Ebenezer Scrooge, a money lender, is notoriously cold of heart, tight of wallet and anti of social. One Christmas Eve, his former partner, Jacob Marley, dead now for seven years, haunts him and tells him that he will be visited by three spirits that night and, if he takes heed, he may avoid the terrible fate that awaits him.

2/10

All movie versions of A Christmas Carol share a serious story problem in that Scrooge’s change of heart happens without a convincing reason; especially in this secular age, being faced with one’s own mortality holds little power and Scrooge wasn’t bothered with the plight of children on the brink of death before. In addition to this problem of an unconvincing story, Zemeckis’ continued used of his unblinking CG freaks adds unconvincing animation and characters to make a movie that is impossible to swallow. There is a fascinating feature on the Blu-ray where Zemeckis shows you the filming of the real actors just so you can see how the animators or digital costume and make-up artists successfully remove the humanity, believability and soul out of the original performance capture. It’s a very expensive and time-consuming process and, I’m sad to say, we’ve clearly lost the depressingly deluded Zemeckis to it.

This movie contains mild bad language and scary supernatural scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Red Faction: Guerrilla (2009, Games for Windows Live) – 7/10 third-person science fiction demolition shooter game review

Cast / crew
Project Design Director: James Hague
Project Design Architect: Luke Schneider
Writer: Drew Holmes
Producer: Rick White
Project Technical Director: Chris Neihengen
Project Technical Director: Jeff Massung
Project System Architect: Dave Baranec
Troy Baker: Alec Mason
Kari Wahlgren: Samanya

Red Faction: Guerrilla (2009)

After his dog is killed by Mars police, Alec Mason joins revolutionary organisation Red Faction. As he presents his concerns to the authorities using a space sledgehammer, he discovers an alien artefact so powerful, so astonishing, so important that he completely forgets about it for the rest of his life and keeps sledgehammering dudes instead.

7/10

If Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson were to make a third-person action game, this would be it as every problem in the universe, including international diplomacy, extra-terrestrial mining, and freedom fighting is solved using a hammer. Once the even more stupid than usual story quickly goes off and sulks in a corner, the delirious, spectacular action takes centre stage and a daft grin starts to etch itself onto your face. As a generous helping of gravy, you then start getting new weapons and they’re all tremendous fun and / or unexpectedly cool. Which offsets the fact that, thanks to the all-powerful sledgehammer, you don’t need any of them. Perhaps Red Faction: Guerrilla’s most notable achievement is that the destructibility of the world is particularly well designed and communicated: you always know what can be destroyed and what can’t; most unusual.

This game contains sexual swear words and extreme sledgehammer violence, gun and fantasy gun 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.

Links

Race to Witch Mountain (2009) – 6/10 science fiction action adventure movie review

Cast / crew
Dwayne Johnson: Jack Bruno
Annasophia Robb: Sara
Carla Gugino: Dr. Alex Friedman
Ciarán Hinds: Burke
Alexander Ludwig: Seth
Tom Everett Scott: Matheson
Christopher Marquette: Pope
Billy Brown: Carson
Garry Marshall: Dr. Donald Harlan
Writer (Original Book): Alexander Key
Writer (Screenplay): Matt Lopez
Writer (Screenplay): Mark Bomback
Writer (Screen Story): Matt Lopez
Director: Andy Fickman
Cheech Marin: Eddie

Race to Witch Mountain (2009)

After some history with a Las Vegas crime boss, taxi driver Jack Bruno thinks he’s got a couple of rich kids in big trouble when his cab is attacked by three black SUVs. What he doesn’t realise yet is that the SUV’s contained government agents and his two children are illegal aliens. The from-outer-space kind.

6/10

Noisily but only vaguely thrilling sci-fi action movie with a predictable eco-message and a predictable, well, just about everything. Even the orange or orange and blue posters are predictable. The only unusual element is to see a major car crash that has a tangible effect on the occupants (they’re winded and suffering from shock). It’s so unusual that it seems bizarre when the occupants don’t immediately evacuate what’s left of the vehicle all-guns blazing. While it seems highly negative to say that the movie is almost instantly forgettable and features nothing of lasting interest, it is professionally and pacily directed, effectively written and acted and is a reasonably thrilling, tightly-focused production.

This movie contains violence.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

The Princess and the Frog (2009) – 6/10 Animated Supernatural Fantasy Disney movie review

Cast / crew
Director: John Musker
Director: Ron Clements
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
Executive Producer: John Lasseter
Writer (Story): Ron Clements
Writer (Story): John Musker
Writer (Story): Greg Erb
Writer (Story): Jason Oremland
Writer (Screenplay): Ron Clements
Writer (Screenplay): John Musker
Writer (Screenplay): Rob Edwards
Writer (Story Inspiration) "The Frog Princess": E.D. Baker
Anika Noni Rose: Tiana
Bruno Campos: Prince Naveen
Keith David: Dr. Facilier
Michael-Leon Wooley: Louis
Jennifer Cody: Charlotte
Don Hall: Darnell

Princess and The Frog, The (2009)

Tiana, a New Orleans waitress with dreams of owning a jazz club / restaurant, finds herself face-to-face with a frog who asks her to kiss him in order to turn him back into a Prince. Realising that making out with animals is an occupational hazard for animated heroines, she kisses the frog then discovers that it’s going to take more than breath mints and feigned drunken ignorance to sort out the aftermath of this one.

6/10

If you can take the songs out of the movie without it being jarring, then it tells you that the structure of your movie is all wrong. Randy Newman’s songs are pretty good; they’re just not needed and they usually tell us something after it’s already happened. Compared to the genius of the Menken / Ashman movies, you wonder whether directors Ron Clements and John Musker learned anything from working with them. The animation is great though it does fall into the contemporary trap of making characters move unnaturally quickly. The Prince, Tiana and Charlotte all work well but the side characters intrude and don’t convince and feel like toy-making opportunities and you might want to kill yourself before the horrific closing credits song kicks in. Still, respect for making the blond bimbo princess unexpectedly generous and unselfish and let’s welcome the return of physically-produced animation at Disney.

This movie contains supernatural horror scenes.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Superstars® V8 Racing (2009, 360) – 6/10 racing game review

Cast / crew
Senior Producer: Fabio Paglianti
Lead Game Designer: Matteo Pezzotti
Game Designer: Matteo Sciutteri
Game Designer: Luca Simonotti
Physics Designer: Emanuele Mari
Physics Designer: Irvin Zonca

Superstars® V8 Racing (2009)

Race in the official International and Italian Superstars® V8 racing championship.

6/10

Superstars® V8 Racing gives us the chance to race on some uncommon tracks such as Adria, Magione, Varano and Portimao for the first time. Sadly, the handling has a gigantic zone of unresponsiveness in the steering which makes precision feel just out of reach. Once you’ve got used to that, the game controls well with a nice feeling of weight that requires just enough concentration to make perfecting laps highly enjoyable. This is also a lot easier than Milestone’s motorcycle games and I had fun collecting all the achievements and prizes and completing the race scenario challenges and, perhaps rather randomly, the thunder sound effect is surprisingly impressive.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes (2009, Fantasy Action Platform Adventure, PC Games for Windows Live) – 4/10 game review

Cast / crew
Producer: John Whiston
Lead Designer: Chris Palu
Lead Programmer: James Podesta
Lead Level Designer: Peter Grogan
Lead Engine Programmer: Glenn Watson
Writer (Screenplay): Steven Melching
Writer (Screenplay): Chris Palu
Writer (Screenplay): Matt Emery
Writer (Screenplay): Richard ‘Rik’ Lagarto
Matt Lanter: Anakin Skywalker
Ashley Eckstein: Ahsoka Tano
James Arnold Taylor: Obi-Wan Kenobi / Plo Koon
Dee Bradley Baker: Clone Troopers / Captain Rex / Clone Commanders / Sergeant Kano
Tom Kane: Narrator / C-3PO / Yoda

Star Wars: Clone Wars, The: Republic Heroes (2009)

As the Clone Wars continue, Anakin and his padawan Ahsoka discover a powerful prototype weapon is being hawked to the highest bidder by Kul Teska. As they alert others and make their way to Teska himself, other forces are also making plans to relieve Teska of his prize.

4/10

This is a game which opens with Yoda lying to you by telling you that a Jedi can’t fall accidentally to his death and will always land on platforms he is jumping to. Regrettably, the exact opposite is true. Every time you press the jump button, you have no idea if you are going to land where you should or, far too often, plummet impotently to your doom. As a result, the game has no flow. The same is true of the attack button but at least that doesn’t kill you. You just keep swiping ridiculously at the air around droids as if you’re trying to burst their ear drums or something. If the jump mechanics had been more predictable, this would be a good game. It looks fine, sounds fine, there’s enough to do, Cad Bane looks unexpectedly cool and it even has a sense of humour. But, as it is, it’s far too often irritating to play.

This game contains extended fantasy lightsaber mecha violence.

Classified 12+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 12 or over.
Classified Violence by PEGI. Game contains depictions of violence.

Shatter (2009, Block Breaker, PS3 timed exclusive) – 7/10 game review

Cast / crew
Original Conception: Andy Satterthwaite
Executive Producer: Andy Satterthwaite
Executive Producer: Mario Wynands
Producer: Alan Bell
Lead Programmer: Christian Schladetsch
Lead Programmer: Rory McCarthy
Composer: Jeramiah Ross

Shatter (2009)

7/10

This is an excellent block breaker with a nice new idea (blowing and sucking the ball) and levels that do not suffer from the last block blight of every other game in the genre. However, the most outstanding contribution of the game is from composer Jeramiah Ross who supplies a nostalgic, fitting and uplifting soundtrack. The game is good, the music is great.

Halo 3: ODST (2009, Science Fiction Shooter) – 6/10 game review

 

Halo 3 Halo 3: ODST (2009)

6/10

A catalogue of poor design decisions including a baffling colour scheme that makes the night-time levels impossible to play in without the special vision mode and disguises doors as walls and has finicky, or buggy if you’re being less charitable, co-op achievements including one (Audiophile) which you’ll probably have spent an hour or two on before you discover you can’t get it in co-op Replay Mission mode. The graphics are also pretty poor technically with a tiny draw distance that makes the vehicle levels an exercise in frustration (you keep smashing into objects that materialise right in front of you). The shooting action itself is, as before, superb, but the game is continually sucking the joy and fun out of the experience, even, perhaps especially, in co-op. Hugely disappointing.

Links

Public Enemies (2009, Period Crime Drama) – 5/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Michael Mann
Writer (Screenplay): Ronan Bennett
Writer (Screenplay): Michael Mann
Writer (Screenplay): Ann Biderman
Producer: Kevin Misner
Producer: Michael Mann
Writer (Original Book): Bryan Burrough
Johnny Depp: John Dillinger
Christian Bale: Melvin Purvis
Marion Cotillard: Billie Frechette
Jason Clarke: "Red" Hamilton
Rory Cochrane: Agent Carter Baum
Billy Crudup: J. Edgar Hoover
Stephen Dorff: Homer Van Meter
Stephen Lang: Agent Charles Winstead
John Ortiz: Phil D’Andrea
Giovanni Ribisi: Alvin Karpis
David Wenham: Walter Dietrich

Public Enemies (2009)

Shortly after getting released from prison for armed robbery, John Dillinger busts a crew of inmates out and goes on a bank robbing spree. He earns himself the position of Public Enemy No. 1 and J. Edgar Hoover, attempting to get a cross-jurisdictional law enforcement agency off the ground, assigns his best man, Melvin Purvis, to the job.

5/10

While not exactly a bad film, this is not an interesting film. The reason we’re clearly supposed to follow the exploits of John Dillinger is because of his charm which causes his girl to fall in love with him. That charm is not contained in Dillinger’s word or actions. And, sadly, Marion Cotillard’s Billie Flechette looks completely disinterested in Johnny Depp’s John Dillinger. Without that chemistry, that core that is supposed to resonate with the audience, the film relies on well executed but straight-forward action sequences that can’t really support it. Instead of following an against-all-odds love story we follow a ten little robbers-shoot-all-the-lawmen-sent-to-catch-them story with Dillinger the final little robber to get knocked off. There are some distracting technical decisions as well; the over-wobbly hand-held close-up camera work feels out of place and, well, over wobbly while some of the film looks jarringly like it was shot on a camcorder. In no way is this a 1930’s Heat. Disappointing.

This movie contains a couple of sexual swear words and graphic and gory gun violence, unpleasant and very gory scenes and sexuality.

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

Armored (2009, Heist Thriller) – 7/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Nimrod Antal
Writer: James V. Simpson
Producer: Joshua Donen
Producer: Dan Farah
Matt Dillon: Mike Cochrane
Jean Reno: Quinn
Laurence Fishburne: Baines
Amaury Nolasco: Palmer
Fred Ward: Duncan Ashcroft
Milo Ventimiglia: Eckehart
Skeet Ulrich: Dobbs
Columbus Short: Ty Hackett

Armored (2009)

Under financial and familial pressure armoured truck guard Ty Hackett joins in with his friends to steal $42 million they are transporting but something goes wrong.

7/10

Sometimes the simplest plan is the best. This heist thriller might disappoint some by not having the typical convoluted wheels-within-wheels ‘unexpected’ double-cross-at-the-end heist plan but it’s tight focus and tidy direction means that it is exactly the kind of guy movie Hollywood should be producing outside of the massive budget blockbusters.

This movie contains a single sexual swear word, mild swear words and gory and unpleasant scenes, violence.

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

Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time (2009, PS3 exclusive) – 10/10 temporal puzzle action adventure platformer game review

AmazonBuy Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time at Amazon

Cast / crew

Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time (2009)

10/10

This is Insomniac’s masterpiece. It’s very funny, paced brilliantly and boasts intrigue and action aplenty. The real stars are Clank’s temporal puzzles which are all brilliant and whose real genius lies in how well the concept is communicated. Each one is superb, fun and challenging but boasting a perfect balance between logic and platforming. They never feel impossible and are tremendously satisfying to solve. Ratchet’s sections are also terrific. Naturally, he has a pile of wonderful, wonderful toys to play with but thanks to fun enemies with different abilities, all the action, even arena and space battles, are surprisingly thrilling, challenging and tremendous fun. It’s never just beating endless baddies the same way. The (optional) disappearing platforms puzzles are a bit irritating and there is a slightly baffling climax to the story but it doesn’t matter a jot to one of the most fun, satisfying and greatest games ever released.

This game contains mild fantasy bad language, extended mild fantasy violence

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Links

White Knight Chronicles (2009, Fantasy RPG, PS3-exclusive) – 6/10 game review

Cast / crew
Producer: Akihiro Hino
Director: Yoshiaki Kusuda
Event Director: Hirokazu Nagai
Daniel Taylor: Leonard
Kari Wahlgren: Cisna
Dannah Feinglass: Yulie
Charles Shaughnessy: Eldore

White Knight Chronicles (2009)

The Kingdom of Balandor is about to come under attack and one of it’s most secret treasures exposed: an ancient supernatural White Knight armour stored deep below the castle. Strangely, the White Knight armour chooses to bestow it’s power upon Leonard, an ordinary labourer about to become an extraordinary hero.

6/10

White Knight Chronicles falls down on a tactics-free battle experience which you can consistently complete with an occasional finger while doing something else entirely. It’s a shame as the story, setting and characters endear themselves to you and boast some nice moments (such as a son putting more effort into producing a fake ornament for his father than it took our heroes to procure the real ornament – though that makes no sense whatsoever, of course). Oddly, the story really requires you to play as hero Leonard while your custom avatar silently accompanies him. Once the story is dealt with there is a huge free online component to explore with your custom avatar as the principle hero that is comparable in time and grind to paid MMO’s. It’s an easy-to-play game that is refreshingly enjoyable to amble through and is better than it first appears.

This game contains mild swear words and fantasy violence, unpleasant scenes.

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.
Classified Drugs by PEGI. Game refers to or depicts the use of drugs.

Links

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Sherlock Holmes (2009, Period Crime Adventure) – 6/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer (Screenplay): Michael Robert Johnson
Writer (Screenplay): Anthony Peckham
Writer (Screenplay): Simon Kinberg
Writer (Screen Story): Lionel Wigram
Writer (Screen Story): Michael Robert Johnson
Producer: Joel Silver
Producer: Lionel Wigram
Producer: Susan Downey
Producer: Dan Lin
Writer (Characters’ Creator) Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: Arthur Conan Doyle
Robert Downey, Jr.: Sherlock Holmes
Jude Law: Dr. John Watson
Rachel McAdams: Irene Adler
Mark Strong: Lord Blackwood
Eddie Marsan: Inspector Lestrade
Kelly Reilly: Mary Morstan

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

The capture and hanging of Lord Blackwood, sinister serial killer, means an onset of unfathomable boredom for consulting detective Sherlock Holmes. The entrance of an old flame, Irene Adler, and the, er, resurrection of Lord Blackwood from the dead, stimulate all his senses satisfactorily.

6/10

Saddled with a plot that lacks cunning, imagination or even much interest and surprisingly short of the director’s witty flourishes, this period buddy-buddy detective movie needs to get by almost solely on the charm of it’s stars. Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams ensure that it does, but only just. The filmmakers expend effort to make the characters appear more rounded and the relationships between the lead triumvirate definitely feel like they have some history. But without any focus on the piercing intelligence of the hero, it loses an opportunity to make that rare beast, an intellectually entertaining Hollywood movie.

This movie contains strong violence, extremely unpleasant scenes and mild nudity.

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

Links

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Shinjuku Incident (2009, Jackie Chan Crime Drama) – 7/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Executive Producer: Jackie Chan
Producer: Willie Chan
Producer: Solon So
Writer: Derek Yee
Writer: Chun Tin Nam
Jackie Chan: Steelhead
Director: Derek Yee
Naoto Takenaka: Inspector Kitano
Daniel Wu: Jie
Xu Jing Lei: Xiu Xiu / Yuko Eguchi
Masaya Kato: Toshinari Eguchi
Toru Minegishi: Koichi Muranishi

Shinjuku Incident (2009)

Chinese farmer Steelhead illegally travels to Japan to find his girlfriend who left a year or so ago to make her fortune. When he arrives, he discovers the streets are not paved with gold. Not unless you’re willing to paint them with blood first.

7/10

This is unquestionably the best written Jackie Chan movie in his entire career. Shinjuku Incident has an interesting story in an interesting setting with convincingly crafted characters. Jackie exhibits a baffling character trait where he refuses money as a gift or for services rendered but is happy enough to steal, cheat and kill for it. This isn’t a good man forced to do bad things; he sees a, criminal, shortcut and takes it and discovers he’s rather good living on the wrong side of the law. There have been a few Jackie Chan movies where they said ‘you’ll see Jackie as you’ve never seen him before.’ This is the first and only time it’s been true. What’s amazing is that the setups for Chan-tastic fight sequences are all there but then he either runs away (and gets reinforcements) or flails inelegantly. He’s not even called Jack or Jackie in the movie (his name is Steelhead though, which is sufficiently awesome). It really is a genuine shock and is another reason to see this movie, if only to experience that surprisingly deep feeling.

This movie contains mild swear words and substance abuse and strong graphic violence, gory and very unpleasant scenes and mild non-sexual nudity, sex scene.

Classified 18 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over.

9 (2009, CG Animated Post-Apocalyptic Action Adventure) – 6/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Shane Acker
Writer (Screenplay): Pamela Pettler
Writer (Story): Shane Acker
Producer: Jim Lemley
Producer: Tim Burton
Producer: Timur Bekmambetov
Producer: Dana Ginsburg
Elijah Wood: #9
John C. Reilly: #5
Jennifer Connelly: #7
Christopher Plummer: #1
Crispin Glover: #6
Martin Landau: #2
Fred Tatasciore: #8 / Radio Announcer
Animation Director: Joe Ksander

9 (2009)

Small sack-man 9 is born into a desolated world where men fought machines and neither side won. He runs into others like him but a little semi-spherical gizmo he’s brought with him is going to change the world forever. Whether he meant to or not.

6/10

SPOILER In order for 9 to make sense, all nine sack-people needed to be absorbed into the machine. They didn’t and so it doesn’t. So, the story’s broken, what does that leave? It leaves an exciting, involving, pacy action adventure that has a memorable visual aesthetic. It’s also highly unusual for an animated film in that it has the tone of a summer action blockbuster instead of a Disney / Pixar experience. It’s definitely worth seeing. I would even go as far as to say it was a good movie. But it could have been so much more.

This movie contains magnet abuse (!) and violence, scary scenes, unpleasant scenes, suicide scene.

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