X-Men (2000) – 7/10 superhero action movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Story Writer: Bryan Singer
Screenplay Writer: David Hayter
Story Writer: Tom DeSanto
Producer: Lauren Shuler-Donner
Producer: Ralph Winter
Executive Producer: Stan Lee
Charles Xavier: Patrick Stewart
Logan / Wolverine: Hugh Jackman
Eric Lensherr: Ian McKellen
Halle Berry: Storm
Famke Janssen: Jean Grey
James Marsden: Cyclops
Bruce Davison: Senator Kelly
Raven Darkholme / Mystique: Rebecca Romijn-Stamos
Ray Park: Toad
Tyler Mane: Sabretooth
Anna Paquin: Rogue

X-Men (2000)

In the not-too-distant future, mankind is on the brink of a new stage of evolution. More and more children are revealing themselves as "mutants", genetically-altered people with superhuman powers. While the US government considers passing the Mutant Registration Act, two powerful mutants consider different ways of dealing with their species’ problem. Professor Charles Xavier believes in training them – including superteam the X-Men – but his old colleague, Magneto, believes that old humankind should be eliminated.

7/10

Bryan Singer’s movie is great when dealing with the characters and slightly under-achieving when it comes to special effects spectacle. The actors and the story are the strong point. The casting of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen was a master stroke and everyone got lucky getting Australian unknown Hugh Jackman in as Wolverine. Every scene with any of these chatting is brilliant; their charisma is engrossing and their story thought-provoking. Singer messes up some critical stuff, principally in the finalé, as he doesn’t seem to have had any idea about how to make superheroes look heroic, let alone superheroic, or to make spectacle spectacular. Everywhere else, though, he does a great job. Of particular note is a superbly intense 1944 prologue and the scene in which absolutely everything comes together: the railway station stand-off. It features Stewart and McKellen in a psychological battle of wit and will, showcases some car-chucking spectacle (non-CG, tellingly) and fits perfectly with everything about the characters and story and universe. It’s an outstanding sequence and one you’ll want to remember instead of the weak finalé.

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Star Trek: Generations (1994) – 7/10 science fiction action adventure movie review

Cast / crew
Patrick Stewart: Picard
Jonathan Frakes: Riker
Brent Spiner: Data
LeVar Burton: Geordi
Michael Dorn: Worf
Gates McFadden: Beverly
Marina Sirtis: Troi
Malcolm McDowell: Soran
James Doohan: Scotty
Walter Koenig: Chekov
William Shatner: Captain James T. Kirk
Writer (Original Series’ Creator) Star Trek: Gene Roddenberry
Writer (Story): Rick Berman
Writer (Story): Ronald D. Moore
Writer (Story): Brannon Braga
Writer (Screenplay): Ronald D. Moore
Writer (Screenplay): Brannon Braga
Producer: Rick Berman
Director: David Carson

Star Trek: Generations (1994)

Eighty years after surviving an energy ribbon that claimed the life of Captain Kirk aboard the USS Enterprise B, Soran gets involved with the current Enterprise and her crew when the observatory he is working on is attacked by Romulans.

7/10

The Next Generation‘s first big-screen outing is good but a little unsatisfactory; especially on repeat viewings. First time around, though, this is a spectacular, science-fiction with at least one edge-of-the-seat scene with the aftermath of a Klingon battle. The film’s main problem is that it grinds to a crushing halt twice. First, unnecessarily, when we are introduced to the Next Generation crew aboard the holodeck with a charmless and baffling walk-the-plank / promotion scene and, secondly, inescapably, when Picard arrives in the Nexus at his bizarrely dressed family. The other grumble is Data’s emotion chip storyline which was certainly a worthwhile idea but all of the scenes where it is played for a laugh or as punctuation fall horribly flat. However, Generations looks fantastic, Shatner and Stewart are great and the story is ambitious, spectacular and thought-provoking (if you want it to be; what would you do to reach utopia?).

This movie contains mild swear words and violence, unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (2010, PS3) – 8/10 fantasy action game review

Cast / crew
Director: Enric Álvarez
Writer (Story): Enric Álvarez
Writer (Story): Luis Miguel Quijada
Writer: Enric Álvarez
Writer: Dave Cox
Writer: Eddie Deighton
Writer: Jon Sloan
Technical Lead: Carlos Rodríguez
Technical Lead: Jose González
Game Programming Lead: Darío Halle
Lead Level Designer: Daniel Alcázar
Music Producer and Composer: Óscar Araujo
Patrick Stewart: Zobek
Natascha McElhone: Marie
Robert Carlyle: Gabriel
Jason Isaacs: Satan

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (2010)

Gabriel Belmont, a Knight of the Brotherhood of Light, as sent to the Lake of Oblivion and begins an odyssey to defeat the Lords of Shadow, prevent the end of the world and resurrect his murdered wife.

8/10

It cannot be overstated how good this game looks; alongside the Batman: Arkham-games, this is probably the best-looking cross-platform game available on console. It’s technically lovely with lots of details and nice shadows and lighting but it’s also invariably spectacular and interesting and full of atmosphere (helped no end by Óscar Araujo’s lovely music). The combat is aiming for God of War and it does hit those heights, albeit not consistently. Gabriel’s whip feels a bit weedier than it should and, between endlessly blocking and dodging, you frequently don’t seem to have time to use any of the moves you’ve learned but, brilliantly, the game doesn’t need to offer XP to artificially boost your artifical skill. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow requires and educates you to genuinely boost your own genuine skill. It’s not as well done as the God of War games but, then, nothing is.

This game contains bad language and gory fantasy violence and nudity.

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

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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006, 360, PC) – 10/10 swords-and-sorcery fantasy role-playing game review

Cast / crew
Executive Producer: Todd Howard
Senior Producer: Ashley Cheng
Lead Programmer: Guy Carver
Lead Programmer: Craig Walton
Lead Artist: Matthew Carofano
Lead Character Artist: Christiane Meister
Lead Dungeon Artist: Istvan Pely
Lead Designer: Ken Rolston
Producer: Gavin Carter
Producer: Craig Lafferty
Patrick Stewart: Emperor Uriel Septim
Sean Bean: Martin Septim
Terence Stamp: Mankar Camoran
Lynda Carter: Female Nords / Female Orcs
Ralph Cosham: Jauffre / Vincent Valtieri / Male Bretons
Wes Johnson: Lucien Lachance / The Grey Fox / Pelinal Whitestrake / The Arena Announcer / Dremora / Male Imperials
Michael Mack: Baurus / Owyn / Male Redguards
Craig Sechler: Hgh Chancellor Ocato / Falcar / Alval Uvani / Faelian / The Adoring Fan / Male Dunmer / Male Altmer / Male Bosmers

Elder Scrolls IV, The: Oblivion (2006)

Languishing in prison you find yourself interrupted by a very surprised Emperor’s bodyguard swiftly followed by the Emperor himself. It seems that the Emperor’s secret escape tunnel is located in your cell and that the cell should, obviously, be empty at all times. Emperor Uriel Septim seems less surprised and tells you that he saw you in a dream and that you should follow them. This is a ticket to freedom, true freedom, as when you finally leave you could assist the Emperor and his Knights’ mission. Or not, it’s up to you; you could become a mercenary and buy yourself a nice house. Or both! What will you do?

10/10

Truly impressive and immersive fantasy action romp. Everything is just that little bit better than normal, just that little bit better than even good games. The quests tend to be little bit more interesting than usual.  The dialogue is more engaging than usual despite sounding like only four people voiced the entire populace outside of Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean. The offensive and defensive combat is just a bit more involving than usual; my setup eventually had a 70% chance of reflecting damage back on the attacker so they’d essentially hack and magic and bash themselves to death while I stood there saying "Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself." The locations are just that bit better designed than usual; you could tell which town you were in without referring to a map and where the temple, your house and preferred merchants were. This is one of the best, and biggest, games ever released and it casts a gigantic shadow over every other swords-and-sorcery-themed western RPG released since. Because they’re not as good.

This game contains mild swear words, mild adult dialogue and fantasy substance abuse and fantasy, blade, projectile and melee violence.

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

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X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – 7/10 superhero fantasy action movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Brett Ratner
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Writer: Zak Penn
Producer: Lauren Shuler-Donner
Producer: Ralph Winter
Producer: Avi Arad
Hugh Jackman: Logan / Wolverine
Halle Berry: Ororo Munroe / Storm
Ian McKellen: Eric Lehnsherr / Magneto
Famke Janssen: Jean Grey / Phoenix
Anna Paquin: Marie / Rogue
Kelsey Grammer: Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy / Beast
James Marsden: Cyclops
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos: Raven Darkholme / Mystique
Shawn Ashmore: Bobby Drake / Iceman
Aaron Stanford: John Allerdyce / Pyro
Vinnie Jones: Cain Marko / Juggernaut
Patrick Stewart: Professor Charles Xavier

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

The mutant community is split when a company announces that it has developed a cure for the mutant gene. Some are shocked that their condition should be treated as a disease, some are relieved that a normal life may now be possible. Magneto, predictably, sees this as an attempt by humankind to eradicate mutants and, you know, he might be right.

7/10

As with Hannibal Lecter series entry Red Dragon, Brett Ratner delivers a surprisingly good movie against all expectation. It’s excellent for a long time and builds to very great scene about half-way through which generates enough goodwill and momentum to take us through the slightly messy second-half. There’s a lot here to like and while critics correctly sniffed that it wasn’t as good as Bryan Singer’s X-Men 2, not much is and it’s better than the first X-Men and Singer’s own 2006 superhero movie Superman Returns. Ratner’s reward was a huge opening weekend, a profit-making movie and snide remarks ever since.

This movie contains mild swear words, adult dialogue and strong fantasy violence, gory and unpleasant scenes and sexuality.

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

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