Monthly Archives: February 2015

Article: Can Marvel fix their villain issues?

Warning: Spoilers for MCU films, Agents of Shield etc. I’ve said repeatedly that Marvel makes consistently good films but that they have one recurring weakness: a lack of good villains. DC has another (a lack of good love-interests) but i’ll do a different article on that. How many of you just went ‘hold on, what about Loki?’. Well Loki fangirls/fanboys don’t worry. He is a good villain, i agree wholeheartedly. But i would argue he’s the exception to the rule. Name one other great Avengers villain? Malekith, Ronan, The Destroyer etc. were all physical threats which lacked Loki’s charisma or moral greyness. The villains in the Iron Man trilogy were pathetic on every level – i don’t care about Stark’s business rivals!!! Lame, lame, lame, lame, LAME! The ruination of the Mandarin in Iron Man 3 (who up till that point was a great villain) for a plot twist that wasn’t even worth it was the low point of the Avengers for me.

This isn’t just a problem with the Avengers films either. The two much-maligned Fantastic Four films had Silver Surfer and Doctor Doom. But neither worked (because of a lack of depth and too much predictability with the surfer’s storyline and far too much OTT posturing with Doom – he was simply laughable as a villain). Even the TV spin-off Agents of Shield had the same issue in it’s debut season – no big name villains ever appeared and the villains of the week were continually either underpowered, uninteresting or unthreatening. Only the Shield/Hydra twist brought that show a couple of decently traitorous villains – but it could have been so much better. Even in the X-Men films – the studio has a real lack of confidence that leads them to re-use Magneto and Mystique constantly (while both are great villains, they have PLENTY of others they could try! Not that i mind seeing more of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique or Fassbender as Magneto – but it’s getting repetive now).

I am more of a DC fan than a Marvel one. After the Christopher Nolan trilogy, the Tim Burton Batman films, the 2 original Superman films and even Man of Steel (which i’m not afraid to admit i really like) very little can break my faith in DC. But i will admit, they’re losing the battle on the big screen to Marvel – the Avengers Universe has been so well structured and is coming together far more smoothly than the rush to create a Justice League that DC is attempting. DC has one advantage though that could swing things back in it’s favour – it’s Pantheon of good villains. Take even a third tier Batman villain (not famous names like Joker or supporting villains like Poison Ivy), someone like Deathstroke or Deadshot. Haven’t heard of them? You will soon. Deadshot is starring opposite Joker in the Suicide Squad movie, being played by none other than Will Smith and with any luck a Deathstroke film won’t be far behind. Both characters have appeared on the TV show Arrow – Deathstroke even being the main villain of Series 2 (played by Manu Bennett of Spartacus fame) – and both are two of the shows most popular villains. They don’t need name recognition – as a couple of master assassins (one renowned sniper, one combat expert) they’re suitably cool, threatening and neither are entirely unsympathetic villains. You know their motivations, their flaws etc. they’re in the same area of moral greyness as Loki.

DC has used the sheer number of great Batman (and other) villains to overwhelm Marvel in both TV and Gaming – nothing Marvel can do can overcome the Batman: Arkham series of games, and i can’t see any of their TV ventures overcoming the DC powerhouse of Arrow, The Flash or even it’s less succcessful shows like Batman prequel Gotham. Not until it sorts out it’s villains. Arrow has Ra’s Al-Ghul, Deathstroke, Malcolm Merlyn (played superbly by John Barrowman), Flash has a whole host of super-powered villains. Gotham has a marvellous version of Penguin. Agents of Shield or Agent Carter? Nothing comparable. So what can Marvel do? It can turn to the one franchise in the Marvel Universe that has almost as many good villains for Marvel as Batman has for DC. Spiderman. Green Goblin, Electro, Sandman Lizard, Doctor Octopus etc. – Spiderman is very good at making sympathetic villains that neither set of films has fully done justice too. Now Sony and Marvel Studios are collaborating it might be time to bring in a few villains – lesser ones like Rhino in Agents of Shield maybe? It also has two villains good enough to be the lead villain in an Avengers film – Venom and Carnage. Venom got a lot of bad press due to spiderman 3’s poor handling of him but deserves a second chance. A group of villains together (the Sinister Six) led by Green Goblin or Doc Ock facing off against the Avengers might also be really cool. You never know: the Fantastic Four reboot might even give us a Doctor Doom or Galactus good enough to pose a threat to the Avengers in Phase 4 or 5 of the MCU.

If Marvel needs inspiration they should also look at the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance videogame – which combines the villains from Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-men together in an alliance headed by Doctor Doom – the kind of storyline that could be an ideal end to the franchise. But until Marvel either starts placing more focus and screentime on the villains or using more big name ones from other franchises, DC has a trump card it can play again and again. Fingers crossed Ultron in Avengers 2 or Thanos in Infinity War might finally be a match for Loki!

Top Ten Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings Moments

Peter Jackson finally brought his middle-earth journey to an end with ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’. After 3 very successful LOTR films and three Hobbit films which got a more mixed reaction, i thought to celebrate their ‘last goodbye’ i could pick out some of my favourite moments from the two trilogies. I picked 5 moments from each trilogy.

Warning: Major spoilers (seriously how have some people not seen these films by now…?).

Anyway here’s my top ten…

10: Riddles in the Dark – Just when you were ready to give up on an unexpected journey after the fiasco which is the goblin tunnels – Gollum appears to engage Bilbo in a game of riddles – unaware Bilbo has stolen his precious ring… – the tensest, darkest part of AUJ and one of it’s redeeming features that make the previous two hours of filler seem almost worthwhile…

9: Sauron Revealed – The Desolation of Smaug’s final hour is arguably the finest hour in any Peter Jackson film – the sense of foreboding is overwhelming (yet ebbs away in 5 armies after 10 minutes!). Here we see Gandalf confronting the Necromancer of Dol Guldur and his servant Azog, only to discover the Necromancer is Sauron himself, who defeats Gandalf with ease…

8: The Death of Boromir – Well it was Sean Bean. He was never going to survive. A downbeat note to end the 1st LOTR film on but a very poigniant one – Boromir’s ultimately futile last stand and his touching farewell with Aragorn makes it a very memorable ending.

7: Shelob – Between this, the Hobbit films, HP and the Chamber of Secrets, how do some people still like spiders!? The only part of the 3rd LOTR film which scared me as a kid – Frodo, alone, having sent Sam away and been abandoned by Gollum, cornered by a giant spider in her cavern… absolutely terrifying!

6: The Forest River sequence – Hilarious but action packed, the dwarves escaping the elves by river in barrels while an Orc Horde attacks make this the moment you realised DOS was a cut above AUJ. Cinemasins famously just said ‘everything about this sequence’ when they tore into this film on Youtube. Guilty pleasure? Maybe, but i still love this part of the film.

5: Forth Eorlingas – The Battle of Helm’s deep was such good cinema it meant neither the Siege of Minas Tirith nor the Battle of the Five Armies seemed as epic by comparison. It was that great. But if i had to pick one standout moment from the awesome battle, it would be it’s ending when Gandalf and the riders of Rohan rode forth to smash the Orc army attacking Helm’s deep. Simply Epic…

4: Bilbo meets Smaug – Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant. As if Sherlock, Alan Turing, Khan etc. weren’t enough, he brought Smaug to life in a way Andy Serkis would have been proud of. Smaug is easily the best villain in any of the Peter Jackson films, and his confrontation with Bilbo is a highlight of DOS in terms of character, dialogue and tension.

3: ‘That still only counts as one!’ This is dedicated to Legolas (ah a time when Orlando Bloom wasn’t constantly playing irritating pricks in films…) and Gimli, and their on screen bromance. After Legolas fells a Elephant and all it’s riders single handed Gimli is immediately on hand to diminish his achievement – the funniest one-liner in any of the films!

2: Smaug destroys Laketown – In my review of the final film, i said the opening 10 mins were it’s best. I stand by that – Smaug’s fury being unleashed on Laketown combined with a pulsating emotive soundtrack (‘Fire and Water’) from Howard Shore led to the best opening scene i can remember from any film. Epic in any sense of the word – but still not as epic as…

1: Gandalf vs. the Balrog – Iconic. With a famous line that is constantly spoofed or stolen and another brilliant piece of music from Howard Shore, Gandalf and the fellowship fleeing the Mines of Moria, only to be chased by the fearsome Balrog (with pretty impressive CGI for 2001). Then when Gandalf turns to face it and seemingly conquers the beast… only to be dragged down with it… if people don’t appreciate Fellowship after watching this scene then there is something very, very wrong with them!

You can probably tell which films are my favourites now. Not that i dislike any of them – all would get at least 4 out of 5 – (ok – maybe not an unexpected journey – but it would get a valiant 3.5). Think i overlooked anything? Feel free to comment any of your own favourite moments!

Game Review: Mass Effect

Mass Effect by Bioware

Warning: Spoilers

The game’s setting is in 2183, when humans have discovered ‘mass effect’ a technology that allows them to use interstellar relays to travel into the galaxy, which is controlled by the council, made up of three alien races, the militaristic but honourable Turians, the devious and smart Salarians and the diplomatic, long lived and all-female race known as the Asari. Humans are pitching to join the council and as a first step they’re trying to get the council to accept a human into their elite group of soldiers known as ‘the Spectres’. You play as Commander Shepard (male or female – but Jennifer Hale, who voices the female version, is so good i’d recommend going that way if you’re only doing one playthough), the soldier accepted into the Spectres and tasked with hunting down a Turian Spectre named Saren, who has gone rogue, allied with a machine race known as the Geth and begun attacking human colonies.

The game mechanics let you play as a combat expert, tech expert or biotic expert (which gives you the power to throw or lift enemies through the air) or a combination of two types. On every mission you have two squadmates accompanying you, who have their own abilities and can be a substantial help in combat. You can choose what armour and weapons you and your squad wear and control which abilities are upgraded when you level up. There’s also a morality system: Paragon or Renegade, which allows you to charm or intimidate certain allies, merchants or enemies into helping you, selling goods more cheaply or backing down in a fight. Some of the moral choices in the game are pretty testing – whether you let defeated enemies live or die, which squadmate you save in a desperate situation, or (at the end) whether you save the council during the final battle or leave them to die to let humans take control of the new council. The choices you make carry over to the next two games in the series – and get a lot of pay-off in Mass Effect 3 – so to get the full effect you should play all three games. I’ve played the first one on PC and PS3, and while i’d say ME2 and ME3 are both best played on a console, the first mass effect game feels better on PC. Whichever one you go for, stick with it for all three games so you can transfer save files – i’d recommend PS3 or Xbox 360 versions because the sequels are definitely better on them, and the sequels are much longer games.

Your squadmates are: two humans named Ashley (a soldier) and Kaidan (a biotic), a turian detective named Garrus (an expert sniper), an asari Biotic named Liara, a Krogan brute named Wrex (Krogans are an exceedingly tough species that lost a war with the council years ago) and a Quarian tech expert named Tali (Quarians are the race that created the Geth as servants – only to be nearly wiped out when the Geth rebelled against them). You end up caring about the characters a lot, and they all have pretty emotive backstories you can uncover if you talk to them enough between missions. You can also romance Kaidan (female only), Ashley (Male only) or Liara (Female or Male). While i’d argue you should try all of them (this is a game that merits multiple playthroughs) – Liara’s probably the best choice – her and femshep (that’s her gamer nickname) are a very popular pairing. Garrus and Wrex are probably the most popular squadmates.

It’s always a bold game that lets you decide which characters survive, and in Mass Effect’s undoubted highlight the fates of 3 of your squadmates hang in the balance. Each Mass Effect Game has one level or location which is so great you always look out for it in subsequent playthroughs – in the first game this is the planet Virmire (which comes about 2/3 of the way through). Virmire has the most fun vehicle section, a major story revelation, one of the most popular supporting characters (Salarian captain Kirrahe), a showdown with the game’s major villain Saren and two very tense moments when your squadmates fates hang in the balance. First comes a confrontation with Wrex – Wrex doesn’t want the base on Virmire destroyed because it contains a cure for the sterility plague that is killing off his people. If you haven’t completed Wrex’s side quest or don’t have a high charm or intimidate score, the Krogan won’t back down – forcing you either to shoot him or for Ashley to kill him for you. At the end of the mission though – you can’t even save everyone this time – as you’re forced to choose between Kaidan and Ashley, one of whom is pinned down with the Salarians, the other with a few troops from your spaceship. Considering one of them is likely to be a love interest can dictate your choice, otherwise it’s whoever you find less annoying/who’s a more valuable squadmate. And when you go to save one of them before a nuke takes the base your attacking out, Saren shows up. After a tense exchange of words and a boss battle, Saren grabs Shepard by the throat and chokes her/him before Shepard punches him and just manages to escape with her squadmate. It’s one of the best sequences in the game.

Problems? The inventory can get tiresome to use mid to late game when you’ve collected a ludicrous amount of equipment, as can the hacking mini-game. The vehicle sections are somewhat uninspired, with some uncharted worlds being a pain to navigate around. However, you should take advantage of the uncharted worlds you can explore, and play as many side-quests as possible to get the most out of the game – the one way the first game is better than the sequels is that it has better side quests. The soundtrack is the least exceptional of the 3 (but that’s unsurprising considering it was very, very good in ME2 and ME3) and interior environments are very repetitive on the side quests on spaceships and uncharted worlds.

Overall, a great RPG, with a good story, morality system and character ensemble. Some minor gameplay issues and dull quests hold it back from the highs of it’s sequels.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper.

Warning: Spoilers!

Guardians was the biggest risk Marvel studios made since Iron Man – (which before the Downey Jr. films wasn’t the most well known character). But while I’d heard of Iron Man and his nemesis the Mandarin, I’d never even heard of Guardians of the Galaxy. So it was hence slightly surprising that Guardians surpassed all but Iron Man 3 and The Avengers in box office revenue. It’s also unusual in the way it’s got far more comedy than other superhero films – only the Incredibles springs to mind as a superhero film which went down that route. The humour is mainly derived from how the 5 main characters interact with each other – and as it’s the best ensemble since the Avengers teamed up, it works really, really well.

Chris Pratt takes on the role of the leading man, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, a roguish adventurer who was abducted from Earth after his mother’s death by Yondou, leader of the Ravagers, a group of space pirates/rogues/thieves. His introduction as an adult is unlike anything else you will see in a hero (dancing to 80’s music in a cavern while kicking and terrorizing some space rat creatures – no you did read that correctly – it’s surreal, it’s weird or hilarious depending on your point of view). Also – was this the quickest superhero parent death ever? – i know it’s a cliche but his mum died in the first scene! A scene far darker than the rest of the film’s tone. One of the best things about the film though is it’s soundtrack – I’m not talking about the score by Tyler Bates, good though that is, but the 80’s songs in Quill’s ‘awesome mix’ which play throughout – Hooked on a Feeling, Cherry Bomb, The Pina Colada Song etc. – they’re all great and fit surprisingly well in the film.

As for the rest of the ensemble – you have Thanos’ adopted daughter Gamora (Saldana) who is trying to escape her past and start afresh, Drax the Destroyer (Bautista) a murderous brute seeking revenge for the death of his family, Groot (Voiced by Diesel) a tree-like life form only capable of saying the words ‘I am Groot’ and Rocket (Voiced by Cooper) – a genetically engineered raccoon with a taste for destruction and as many credits as he can get his paws on. Which is your favourite is normally difficult to decide (i rarely hear Gamora’s name mentioned – though she is undeniably bad-ass, and Quill actually gets outshined by how brilliant Drax, Rocket and Groot are – so it’ll probably be one of those three you love most). For anyone wondering: I am Groot!

The group are thrown together after Quill steals an orb from Ronan, a Kree fanatic intent on destroying the planet Xandar. After a confrontation for the orb (and the bounty on Quill’s head) they end up thrown in prison and have to work together to escape. They eventually discover the orb contains an ‘infinity stone’ (The Tesseract, The Aether and Loki’s staff all are or contain similar stones – which play a major part in Avenger’s 3: Infinity War) which Ronan recaptures, intending to use it to destroy Xandar and make himself the most powerful man in the galaxy. The plot is pretty similar to Malekith’s attempt to seize the Aether in Thor 2.

Problems? The villains don’t get enough screen time (but then the film isn’t really about them) and Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) while a believable physical threat and galactic terrorist, isn’t really very interesting – he’s no Loki and like most of the Marvel villains is very 1-dimensional. It’s the one thing they really struggle with (Iron Monger, Whiplash, Red Skull, Malekith, Ronan – none have been that memorable have they?) and it’s the one area where DC always beats them. Hopefully his sidekick Nebula (Karen Gillian) and her father Thanos (Josh Brolin) will get a bit more fleshed out in the sequel as well. The other problem? Don’t lose concentration or have conversations during the dialogue scenes – as some people i watched it with proved – if you haven’t read the comics you will get totally lost if you don’t pay attention to the plot. It is good ‘popcorn cinema’ and you can watch it casually, but if you want to get the full experience, watch on a widescreen with the volume up.

Overall a brilliant mesh of characters, some engaging battle scenes and great one-liners make this a cut above most of the Marvel films. For those of you longing for another Loki though, you might have to wait for Age of Ultron.

Rating:4 out of 5

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone

Warning: Major Spoilers!

The more things change, the more they stay the same. As you’ve probably heard, Spiderman is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a couple of Avengers films in 2016/7. While this is great news for Marvel fans it’s come at a high price – we seem to have lost Andrew Garfield from the title role. Yet again a sequel that didn’t earn as much as it should have, was packed with multiple villains and received lukewarm reviews has caused the franchise to reboot. Sound familiar? It’s Spiderman 3 all over again. I’ll be straight up with you. I liked Spiderman 3. I liked this film. Neither are awful, but neither are as good as they should have been. And I’m very disappointed if we’ve lost Andrew Garfield – he was definitely better than Tobey Maguire’s version of Peter Parker/Spiderman.

What went wrong with Spiderman 3 was to introduce Venom (Topher Grace) another villain (in addition to New Goblin, Sandman and the Alien Symbiote which corrupts Peter) in the last 30 mins. He gets created. He allies with Sandman (whose got barely any screen time anyway). He dies. Very rushed, very predictable and so stupid because everyone could see a solution (leaving Venom’s creation to be a cliffhanger at the end of the film) that could have saved the film’s ending.

So when the Amazing Spider-Man 2 revealed in it’s trailers than 3 villains were present, and all 3 being introduced for the first term in this film, it started ringing alarm bells in a few people’s heads. However, while Max Dillon/Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Harry Osborn/Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) share the villainous spotlight, the other villain Rhino (Paul Giamatti) is relegated to a 5 minute confrontation at both ends of the film, probably leading to a greater role in the (now-defunct) sequel. The battle scenes between Spider-Man and the various villains are all very good (but Sony made the unforgivably stupid decision to show 70-80% of those scenes in the 5, 5! trailers it released – which really lessened any surprise factor). Electro was billed as the main villain for the film, but it’s arguably DeHaan’s Goblin which comes off better. Both are sympathetic characters, but DeHaan’s performance and journey is a cut above Jamie Foxx’s (more down to the scripting than Foxx).

The film undeniably looks great and has a key sense of style. The musical score, by the bizarre combination of the ever present Hans Zimmer, the Magnificent Six (I’ve never heard of them either) and Pharrell Williams, somehow works – listen to ‘We’re Best Friends’ – it’s one of Zimmer’s best tracks. However where the film really succeeds is Emma Stone. She is both the reason i prefer the 2 amazing-spider-man’s to the Sam Raimi trilogy (seriously how has Kirsten Dunst got another acting part again after those – she was pathetically bad as Mary Jane in the original trilogy!) and the reason this film is actually a fitting note to end on for Garfield. Gwen Stacy (stone) is a perfect, smart, funny, sexy love interest for Peter and her on screen chemistry with Garfield really shines through (unsurprising considering they’re an actual couple). Garfield and Stone really sell the film’s emotional core, and if anyone is a big fan of this film I’d bet it’s because of them. Traditionally the second film in a superhero trilogy (though this is now unlikely to get a 3rd film) either throws the couple together (Superman II, Iron Man 2) or splits them apart (The Dark Knight, Spiderman 2) – and either only works if you genuinely care about them both. You really do here – which makes the finale all the more heart breaking (MAJOR SPOILER WARNING!!!).

After Gwen saves Peter from Electro and the two work together to kill him (the first time a villain has been deliberately killed in a spiderman film – seriously check the others – they either escape, get captured or find various stupid ways of accidentally committing suicide) and the two reunite and reaffirm their love for each other – it looks like the film might end on a high. One of the three friends i watched this with had a (correct) bad feeling when Gwen showed up at the final battle ‘why is she here, no, no, no this isn’t good!’ while another clung to the fact that Marvel has never been brave enough to kill a major character off. The last superhero film to do that was The Dark Knight. But the battle between Peter and Green Goblin does lead to a significant death – Gwen’s. This leads the film to end on a very downbeat (but bold note) as after some depression, soul-searching and finally watching a video of a speech Gwen made Peter resumes being Spiderman after a long absence in time to save a kid from Rhino, who backed by Oscorp (Harry’s company) has gone on the rampage.

Overall great acting, a weird but great soundtrack, but too many characters and sub-plots squeezed into a 2 hour film. Should have done a Dark Knight Rises and gone on for an extra 30 mins.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Game Review: Bioshock

Bioshock by 2K Games

Warning: Spoilers!

Despite being an avid gamer who owns several consoles, I’ve kept to film and TV reviews so far, but here’s my first game review with a classic from 2007 that me and my flatmate have been playing recently.

This is a game that longs to be adapted for TV or cinema. It’s setting, characters and story are that good. However because of the dark storyline, dubious morality and 18-violence most networks/studios are too cowardly to attempt a proper recreation. The setting? An underwater city called Rapture, a fallen utopia that has gone to hell in 1959. The player character Jack is a silent protagonist, but the supporting characters are so richly crafted they hold the story up by themselves. The main villain is Andrew Ryan, the creator and (now) tyrannical ruler of rapture who suspects Jack of being a spy sent by the KGB or CIA to discover the secrets of Rapture. The man is very much a story of good intentions gone bad after a civil war in rapture against the rebel Atlas, who guides the player character through most of the game. As you progress through the city, you learn more about it’s history – Ryan’s descent into tyranny after a confrontation with a criminal kingpin/smuggler named Frank Fontaine – and the discovery of ADAM, a substance that allows the people of rapture to rewrite their own DNA to throw fire, ice and electricity from their hands but which was so addictive that it ultimately drove most of the inhabitants insane. As well as various other ‘plasmids’ the player can make use of, the guns are pretty varied too – while you start out with basics like pistols, rifles and shotguns, later weapons like the crossbow, RPG launcher and chemical thrower are incredibly fun to use.

The game also has a moral dimension (a feature expanded in the sequels) which is always a sign of a good role-playing game (Fallout, Mass Effect, etc.). Specifically, it’s the ‘little sisters’, modified young orphaned girls who wander around rapture collecting ADAM, something the player character desperately needs. They are guarded by the armour-suited and incredibly tough ‘big daddies’ (one of whom you play as in the sequel) who can be a real challenge to kill. But once you’ve dealt with the brutes you face a dilemma. Cure the ‘little sister’ saving the girl and receiving a small amount of ADAM (although you receive rewards for every 3 you save) or harvest all the ADAM from her (this makes the game easier – but the little sister dies in the process). On easy you can be the ‘good guy’ and save them all without too much trouble – but on harder difficulties you might struggle to be the hero and have to kill a few just to progress through the game,

The game isn’t all good – the hacking minigame gets both tiresome and difficult after a while, and if you fail to research the various enemies you counter or upgrade your weapons the game will become very challenging towards the end. The story also starts to fall off in the final third of the game – the last two levels aren’t that interesting or innovative compared to what’s come before. This is the result of a massive (but brilliant) plot-twist at the game’s halfway point when you confront Ryan, which leads to both an abrupt switch in villains and a new guide for the player. Unfortunately the replacements aren’t quite as charismatic as Ryan or Atlas, and the story suffers after it becomes clear the new villain simply isn’t as good.

I’ve played this game both on PS3 and PC and on both it’s one of the most difficult games i can remember attempting. First time gamers will die. A lot. Even on easy difficulty. Even experienced gamers will have a few tough times on medium and hard difficulty is a real pain if you aren’t prepared for it. This makes it very ironic that the game has the easiest ending boss-battle I’ve ever played (perhaps the reason why it’s sequels avoided such climaxes altogether). But if you want a challenging FPS – pick this over a COD game. Every time. It’s smarter, harder and less repetitive. It’s a single player only game – but that’s a good thing, single player only games almost always have better campaigns than games trying to juggle multiplayer and campaigns (again COD’s repeated failing in recent years).

Overall a decent FPS (first person shooter) with one of the greatest storylines and settings you’ll ever find in a videogame. It’s sequels are both worth a look as well…

Rating: 4 out of 5

On gaming reviews, I’m likely to cover the Bioshock sequels, the mass effect trilogy, Fallout and Skyrim at some point. If you have any suggestions (PS3/4 Games only please – i haven’t played many xbox or wii games) please comment.

Movie Review: Prometheus

Prometheus starring Noomi Rapace

Warning: Spoilers!

Hi guys – i’m back after a long absence. This time i’ll be more varied in terms of reviews – i won’t be monotonous and go series by series – i’ll jump around a bit and throw in some more film reviews too!

First up: Prometheus. I covered Alien and Aliens last year, and as you may remember, i have a high opinion of both. I haven’t covered alien 3 or alien: resurrection yet, as my memory of both is a little shaky. As for the AVP (alien vs. predator) movies – those films are a disgrace to the franchise with some of the worst directing ever seen. Seriously – you’d be better off with the video game – far more tense and with characters which are easier to care about. Prometheus exists in the same universe as a prequel, with Ridley Scott returning to direct. Along with the fact Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron were starring in the film, this gave everyone hope that it would finally be a worthy successor to Aliens. Was it? No. But it beats the sequels and spin-offs, that’s for sure.

The plot? A group of scientists aboard the spaceship Prometheus travel to a distant planet in search of ‘Engineers’ who protagonists Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) believe created the human race. The Engineers prove to have used the planet as a testing center for bio-weapons, and the shadowy Weyland-Yutani corporation has it’s own agenda after financing the expedition. It’s a bit too predictable – you know which characters are going to die at certain points (though the film does at least make you believe no one is getting out of the ending alive). The visuals are stunning throughout, with the alien planet, the engineers and the spaceships all looking very cool and believable.

Fassbender is the highlight of this film. His performance as the android David is perfect, and you’re never entirely sure of his motivations throughout. Rapace is good as Elizabeth Shaw, but Ripley comparisons are unavoidable, and she simply isn’t as charismatic or strong as Sigourney Weaver was – though this is more the script’s fault than Rapace’s. Idris Elba (Captain Janek) and Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers) give good performances as the pragmatic captain and the manipulative executive respectively.

While the lead performances are good, the problem is that the rest of the scientific team, while amusing and good cannon fodder – simply aren’t very believable – especially Fifield and Milburn – who clearly wouldn’t be trusted on a school field trip, nevermind a mission to outer space. All the characters in Alien and Aliens were very well defined – believable workers or marines respectively. This film lacks that touch. It also misses the suspense factor. Dallas hunting the alien in the vents in the first film or the marines getting ambushed in the reactor in the second were extremely tense sequences. This one isn’t on the same level. It has one very disturbing sequence (Shaw performing a C-Section to remove an alien growing inside her) but while there are plenty of violent character deaths and disturbing visuals, few can genuinely scare or shock you. Part of the problem is that you probably won’t care about the characters, part is that the environment isn’t dark or claustrophobic enough to generate tension, and part is that the musical score (apart from one or two sequences) doesn’t match James Horner or Jerry Goldsmith’s and simply isn’t tense enough.

The engineers don’t get as much screen time as you feel they should have – and thus don’t leave as much of an impact as the aliens did. The sole purpose of the one we encounter being to kill off about half the cast in the final 30 mins, and they have a overly short 30 second confrontation with Shaw. The final scene of a proto-alien being born is suitably creepy – pity there weren’t more scenes like that. The film raises more questions than answers – questions that will hopefully be answered in the upcoming sequel. However I’m currently more excited by the rumours about a possible Alien 5 (and perhaps a Ripley return…).

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Overall a decent attempt to recapture the magic of the first two alien films – the lead actors and visuals were superb, but a lack of suspense, predictability and a somewhat lackluster score from Marc Streitenfeld mean it is merely ‘good’.