Doom | Reveal Trailer

So a trailer for a new Doom game was teased at QuakeCon 2014 – a pre-rendered clip showcasing one of the new demons we’ll undoubtedly be crossing paths with in the not too distant future.  As is the norm, the game will be developed by id Software and published by Bethesda Softworks (responsible for the BFG edition of Doom 3).  Though previously thought to be stuck in development hell, the ‘Doom 4 project’ has been seemingly revived and will be slated for a simultaneous multi-platform release.

Game of Thrones – Season 4 Finale & Roundup

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Game of Thrones has come a long way since the show’s premiere in 2011.  Multiple story arcs and a myriad of characters outmatched only by the show’s gruesome death toll has rapidly made GOT one of the most popular and talked about television shows ever.

As the caption above implies, the family we love to hate – House Lannister will indeed pay (be advised as there will be lots of spoilers), as they finally took a hit after remaining (relatively) intact throughout 3 entire seasons while House Stark had been decimated.

Joffrey's death - one of the most anticipated moments, revealed early in season 4.

Joffrey’s death – one of the most anticipated moments, revealed early in season 4.

As it stands, all of the Stark men have been killed save for a bastard (Jon Snow) and a cripple (Bran Stark), leaving the fate of House Stark very much uncertain.  However, this season the tides had turned for the Lannisters with the shocking death of Joffrey Baratheon in episode 2.  Gleeson’s portrayal of the young inbred king has been so impressive that he has become perhaps the most hated villain of all time.  Fan favourite – Tyrion Lannister had been accused of assassinating Joffrey and sentenced to death, leading to a series of events that led to the nail-biting (and arguably most gruesome) – Red Viper vs The Mountain Battle.  Thankfully , Tyrion has survived season 4 with his head still secured to his neck, and in the process managed to kill his former traitorous lover Shae (strangulation) as well as his indifferent and elitist father Tywin Lannister shortly after (crossbow).

Tyrion's trial/speech, a hallmark of the series.

Tyrion’s trial/speech, a hallmark of the series.

In a strange twist, fans of the books had been clamouring for what was certain to be one of the most anticipated scenes – namely, the reanimated and vengeance-fueled Catelyn Stark but  were left wanting as she never made her appearance amongst the skeleton warriors scene in the series.  Apparently the producers had no intention of including this scene in season 4 though being a somewhat important plot device in the books (from what I understand) perhaps she will still turn up in season 5.  So with both Tywin and Joffrey dead as well as Cersei and Jaime’s ongoing incestuous antics, the future of the Lannister House is starting to look a little shaky too.

Meanwhile, The Hound is left for dead after a gritty brawl with Brienne of Tarth and Daenerys Targaryen has shackled 2 of her 3 dragons (presumably left for dead) and has exiled her (revealed to be a spy) right-hand man – Jorah Mormont.

The Red Viper vs The Mountain.

The Red Viper vs The Mountain.

Game of Thrones follows a 10-episode format with an approximate running time of 50 – 60 minutes per episode.  The show is estimated to have the largest cast on television (257 as of season 3) and has amassed worldwide acclaim as one of the highest rated and most popular television shows ever.  While the show’s myriad of characters and intertwining story arcs will demand your full undivided attention for the most part, audiences are rewarded with splashy, exciting (or long-anticipated) sequences such as the Battle of the Castle Black and the Wall (season 4, episode 9) and Joffrey’s death, all of which is done in spectacular fashion thanks to the series’ high budget.  There seems to be no slowing down for Game of Thrones as 4 seasons in the show remains satisfying, action-packed and interesting with no signs of slowing down or stagnation (the death of many a show).  Now, if George R.R. Martin could just stop systematically murdering all of his characters, that’d be great…

Prestigio MultiPad 9.7 PRO Tablet PC

3366985Tablet PC’s are all the rage nowadays, compact and convenient, the tablet PC has fast become the device of choice whether you’re using it for business purposes or recreation.  Though not in the same class as mobile PC’s, and sometimes even referred to as ‘underpowered laptops’, tablet PC’s are lightweight tools ideal for books, comics, movies, internet and music, and serve as the perfect media companion when traveling.  These devices are everywhere, and this can be confirmed by strolling through your local mall where you would undoubtedly see people (usually in coffee shops) reading the news while they sip their coffee or groups of people gathered at one table as some work-related slide show or spreadsheet is being displayed.  The real problem with tablet PC’s of course, is picking the right one…

So who are Prestigio and are they any good? Well, while not as renown as Samsung or Apple – the two largest players in the tablet PC world with the Galaxy Tab and iPad respectively, Prestigio is a relatively new brand, only been on the market for a decade and are based in Cyprus, with a business model offering luxury, state-of-the-art technologies aimed at competing with the high-end market.  Prestigio is a fast-growing and well-established international brand sold in 63 countries and is increasingly ranked among the most regarded brands in emerging markets across the EMEA (Europe, Middle-East & Africa) region.

So let’s get down to brass tacks.  Prestigio offers a wide range of tablet PC’s designed to suit the specific needs of consumers, my model of choice was the MultiPad 9.7 PRO as it is the nearest equivalent  to an iPad or Galaxy Tab, retailing for around R2900 (320USD).  The reason I picked this tablet over the aforementioned competitors is because I believe them to be overpriced, and while Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is Android-based, I disdain Apple’s far-less flexible iOS platform and cannot justify purchasing the Apple product when there are literally thousands of free Android apps readily available.

As with all computer-related hardware, specs are important and thankfully the MultiPad 9.7 PRO has a rather impressive array.  The MultiPad 9.7 PRO is preloaded with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, a very nice, very neat little OS that not only looks great but is easy to utilize and navigate and comes preloaded with a multitude of apps.  Apart from all the free apps available online as well as the aforementioned preinstalled ones, there are also over 300 000 apps available to purchase on Google Market.  At its core, the MultiPad 9.7 PRO runs on an ARM Cortex A8 Rockchip RK218 cpu @1GHz.  It has a 9.7″ display with a 1024×768 resolution and has back-light LED IPS with a capacitive multi-touch screen using G-Sensor rotation.  It has an internal memory size of 8GB, 1GB of installed DDR3 RAM and supports 32GB Micro SD/Micro SDHC.  Apart from the Micro SD/SDHC, other interfaces include – WiFi, Mini HDMI x 1, Mini USB 2.0 x1, and 1 3.5mm mini jack.  Bluetooth and VGA interfaces are not included and it’s worth noting that as there are no phone features, the only internet interface available is WiFi.  A 0.3 megapixel camera is present on the front of the device, one of the MultiPad’s few drawbacks, and supports the following multimedia formats:

  • ebook formats – EPUB, PDF, TXT, FB2
  • Audio formats – APE, AAC, MP3, WAV, OGG, FLAC & stereo audio playback.
  • Image formats – PNG, BMP, JPG, GIF
  • Video formats – AVI, FLV, 3GP, MOV, MVN, MKV, MP4, RM, RMVB, WMV, VOB (DVD), DAT & has full HD playback.

The MultiPad 9.7 PRO uses a lithium-ion polymer battery with a decent capacity of 6000 mAh, approx 4hrs video playback, 36hrs audio playback and has a standby time of 120hrs.  The dimensions and weight of the MultiPad 9.7 PRO are as follows:

  • Width (mm) – 241
  • Height (mm) – 187
  • Depth (mm) – 9.6
  • Weight – 610g

The MultiPad 9.7 PRO is an extremely affordable and high-quality device with its best feature undoubtedly being the display. Images and video are sharp and crisp, and with OpenGL 3D technology, multimedia files (such as HD films) run remarkably smooth, and thanks to the HDMI interface, one can easily connect the tablet to a TV.  Much like the Galaxy Tab and iPad, the MultiPad 9.7 PRO also features a scratch resistant screen as well as a high quality metal housing with rubber grip pads on the backside.  You will find all the buttons and outputs located on the topside of the device.  To top it all off, this device comes with a stylish leather pouch.

Conclusion

The MultiPad 9.7 Pro is a superb device, and if like me you were looking for a tablet specifically for books and comics then you need not look further.  Though some may find the lack of phone features and WiFi-only internet annoying, it doesn’t bother me in the least as I have a laptop and PC to access the net, and even then I can download any app I like and just place it onto the tablet.  The only niggle I have with this device is that the Micro SD  card is almost impossible to remove without tweezers and it’s a little annoying that if the tablet is connected to a PC via USB it renders the SD card inaccessible.  If you intend on using this device for comics, do yourself a favour and download the app – QuickPic, as it renders images faster and is more feature-rich than the default image viewer.  All-in-all, the MultiPad 9.7 PRO is a sleek, cost-effective and high-performance alternative to the iPad and Galaxy Tab.

Grade: A

Dredd 3D

Info:

Genre: Science-fiction, action, crime

Director/s: Pete travis

Running Time: 95 mins

Budget: $45 million

Released: 21 September 2012

Plot:

In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO – imdb

Review:

This one has been a long time coming, after the atrocious – Judge Dredd in 1995, you’d be forgiven for wanting to overlook Dredd for fear that it is merely a remake of the aforementioned travesty, but fear not, Dredd has done the science-fiction anthology – 2000AD, proud.

For starters, in case you didn’t know, 2000AD is a science fiction magazine originating in the UK, with Judge Dredd being the magazine’s longest running character since first appearing in issue #2, back in 1977.  It is also a well-known fact (assuming you know anything about Joseph Dredd) that in 35 years of publication, Judge Dredd’s face has never been properly revealed, always obscured by his helmet, apart from a couple of occasions where he was forced to remove it (though his face remains hidden in some way or another).  The creators of Judge Dredd decided that keeping the helmet on would reinforce the facelessness of the law, and Judge Dredd is the law.  Perhaps the biggest peeve of fans was Dredd removing his helmet (within the first 15 and-a-half minutes) in the 1995 film adaptation, for the majority of the film, a fact which is still brought up today as why the film sucked (though there are many, many other reasons).  Though Stallone certainly had the right demeanor and jawline to play a convincing Dredd, his rendition of the character was marred by a shitty script and poor production value.

Dredd debriefing Anderson.

17 years later and we have Dredd 3D.  This 2012 adaptation is faithful to the source material, filled with all the gratuitous carnage and violence a Dredd fan would expect (in true 3D I might add) and best of all, Dredd never removes his helmet.

Enter Karl Urban – the new face (or rather mouth) of Dredd, every bit as brutal and bad-ass as the Judge Dredd character should be.  Completely incorruptible and unwavering, Urban’s Dredd has been lifted from the 2000AD magazine.  Judge Dredd is the most infamous of the street judges (something of a legend), and just like the original source material, a judge has the power of arresting, sentencing and sometimes even executing criminals on the spot, without the bureaucracy of due process.

The visuals are quite amazing at times, more so thanks to the true 3D treatment.

The plot of Dredd is neither grand or of an epic scale, rather, it is a more intimate, ‘day-in-the-life-of’ story that closely follows Dredd and rookie – Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), Anderson is seemingly unfit for judge work, but being a mutant with powerful psychic abilities, she is assigned to Dredd for evaluation.  After they respond to a disturbance in a 200-story residential slum known as Peach Trees, the judges are forced to fight for their lives as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her gang (who pretty much run the place after wiping out all their competitors) place Peach Trees under lock-down in order to exterminate the judges.  What ensues is an hour of gratuitous violence and nail-biting action as Judge Dredd unleashes the full force of law in a brutal and spectacular fashion, with Terminator-like efficiency.

…enter Karl Urban – the new face (or rather mouth) of Dredd, every bit as brutal and bad-ass as the Judge Dredd character should be…

However, it is worth noting that while Dredd is hugely entertaining, it is also essentially the exact same film as 2011’s The Raid: Redemption.  Whether this is a coincidence or not, it’s difficult to determine which film came out with the screenplay first when you consider that Dredd has been in development since 2009.  Having watched The Raid: Redemption first, the plot to Dredd held no surprises for me.

Conclusion

Dredd does not attempt to be of an epic scale, there is no over-the-top plot to overthrow the world, there is no love story between Dredd and Anderson (rather her presence signifies the ‘human touch’ allowing audiences to connect with the film) and most importantly, there is no helmet-removing nonsense.  Combined with a kick-ass soundtrack, Dredd is pure, unadulterated entertainment – if you’re partial to films being violent and meaty of course…

Grade: A

Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception

Info:

Developer/s: Naughty Dog

Publisher/s: Sony Computer Entertainment

Platform/s: PlayStation 3

Genre: Action-adventure, platform

Release Date: 2011-10-28

Review:

In 2006, Naughty Dog released the first Uncharted game, entitled Uncharted – Drake’s Fortune, setting a precedent for action-adventure gaming which the likes of Tomb Raider could never possibly match.  In 2009, the bar was raised even higher with the fantastic sequel Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves, which was awarded game of the year and is to my mind, one of the greatest games ever made and the best of the trilogy.  The first game set the rules, the second built upon that, improving upon absolutely every aspect – game-play, visuals, story-telling and what have you, and now we have Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception.  So what makes the second installment better…?

To make it very clear, Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception is an amazing achievement in terms of gaming, and is a prime example of cinematic gaming done right.  However, the reason why I reckon that the second installment is superior is due to the fact that with Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog have played it safe in that rather than try something new, they’ve essentially used the second game’s ingredients as a template for Drake’s Deception.  Needless to say, this is far from a bad thing as Drake’s Deception is an exhilarating experience (especially in the later levels and one scene involving a plane…), it’s just a shame that the developers didn’t try to raise the bar even further.  Then again, it is rather difficult to top an action scene where one is on a moving train trying to gun down a Black Ops Hind-D with an anti-aircraft turret.

So in Uncharted 3, the man with the incredible grip (he climbs everything) Nathan Drake returns once more with faithful companion and mentor, Victor (Sully) Sullivan as they embark on a quest to find the legendary lost city – The Iram of the Pillars.  Needless to say, much like Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves, Uncharted 3 is a globe-trotting adventure including locations like London, Yemen, Colombia, Rub’ al Khali and the Arabian Peninsula, which nicely contrast the Asian locales of the second game.  Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception has received a multitude of awards as critics praised every aspect of the game, however the title of  ‘Game of the Year’ was snatched from it in 2011 by Skyrim respectively.

The game starts off in a seedy pub located in London, where Nathan and Victor have agreed to meet a man named Talbot who’s interested in buying Nathan’s ring.  However the transaction gets derailed when the pair accuse Talbot of trying to pay them with counterfeit bills and needless to say, this erupts into a bar-room brawl which then escalates into the back-alley variety.  Nathan and Sully are then subdued by one of Talbot’s associates – Charlie Cutter.  After Talbot’s client – Katherine Marlowe, takes the ring, Cutter then guns Nathan and Sully down, supposedly leaving them for dead.  The story then begins with a flashback to 20 years earlier, where a 14-year-old Nathan is exploring a museum in Colombia in search of Sir Francis Drake’s ring (obviously the ring he intends on selling in the present).  The museum is also where Nathan meets the 39-year-old Sully as well as Marlowe.  From here, Uncharted 3 becomes a globe-trotting and gun-totting adventure that further expands on the Uncharted mythos, in spectacular fashion I might add.

As per usual, this third installment of the Uncharted series, boasts some of the most impressive visuals seen in a game, due to impressive motion capture and voice-acting.  Using 2 motion capture studios – a smaller one in their studio as well as a dedicated stage at Sony Studios (responsible for the motion capture and audio), Naughty Dog were able to raise the bar for video-game motion capture, as Uncharted 3 was shot in the same fashion as a major Hollywood production.  It is the reason why Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series is so fluid and realistic.

Uncharted 3 uses an ‘upgraded’ version of the engine they used for the first 2 games, resulting in better visuals, environmental effects, physics as well as environmental deformation.  The game also includes new innovative technology that makes elemental effects such as fire, smoke, water and moving sand (the desert sequences look unbelievable) all the more realistic. Six years down the line, it’s impressive to see what Naughty Dog have managed to squeeze out of the PlayStation 3 hardware,  even though Uncharted 3 is undoubtedly graphically superior to Uncharted 2, the graphical leap is far narrower than between the first 2 games, simply because the developers were unable to push the hardware any further.  When you consider that Uncharted 2 is just below 25Gb whereas it’s sequel hovers in at around 50Gb, if developer’s wish to make ‘bigger and better’ games in the future then we may start to see PlayStation 3 games being spread over multiple Blu-Ray disks.  The PS3 hardware has really been put to the test with Uncharted 3 as players are led from one epic scene to the next.  From escaping a burning chateau as fire creeps up the walls, to wandering around an expansive desert landscape as sun and fatigue threaten to undermine your efforts, Uncharted 3 is a beautiful looking game.  Throw in an Indiana Jones style chase sequence on horseback and a daring escape as players are thrust from an aircraft as the hull tears itself apart and you know you’re in for something special.

So Uncharted 3 has the graphical goods but what about playability? Those familiar with the first 2 games will be well-adjusted for this third entry as the controls are just as responsive and fluid as one would expect them to be.  Apart from the usual run-and-gun game-play, Naughty Dog have taken the time to expand upon the melee combat which now includes a counter system – extremely useful when going up against a wily foe.  Needless to say, quick-time events make a return, but they’re so well-placed and implemented that even the quick-time haters will have to appreciate them.  Once again, various treasure pieces are hidden throughout the entire game, and if you don’t manage to find them all the first time around, they will entice you to play the game through again.  Further adding to the longevity of Uncharted 3, is the online multi-player mode that will keep you playing long after you’ve completed the game, though personally I don’t really care for competitive modes in games as the single-player story experience will always be my primary interest.  At certain sections in Uncharted 3, you will be required to solve puzzles in order to progress the story, though the puzzles themselves are relatively straight-forward logic problems and if you do get stuck one can always check Drake’s journal for clues or, if you’re really stumped or just lazy, after a certain amount of time, a help prompt will pop up, offering to solve the puzzle for you (lame).  One thing that I did find irritating about Uncharted 3 was the difficulty curb.  Naturally as you progress through the game, the enemies become more challenging and better equipped – completely understandable, but when the game decides to place you in a room with minimal cover and multiple bad guys engaging you in melee combat as a platoon of overhead snipers and grenadiers take pot shots at you, forcing you to break from cover (resulting in instant death in most cases), then it just becomes frustrating and absurd.

Much like Indiana Jones, Uncharted 3 has an established main musical theme, instantly recognizable and wonderfully catchy.  From the trademark intro music to the exhilarating action sequences, Uncharted 3 ensures that you feel like you’re the hero in some epic Hollywood film.  But it’s not only the score that makes the game so engrossing.  Uncharted 3 has some of the best voice-acting I’ve ever heard in a game.  Nolan North returns once again to voice Nathan Drake, and as expected the dialogue is as witty and humorous as ever, as Drake comes armed with his usual amount of sarcasm and wry wit as he dishes out the quips left, right and centre.

If for some or other reason, you required further inclination for getting yourself a copy of Uncharted 3, do yourself a favour and track down the Explorer Edition, which includes a Nathan Drake statue, life-size replicas of his belt buckle and ring/necklace (with leather strap), a 3D lenticular image,  Special Edition of the game including the DLC and pre-order bonuses, packaged in an art book, made in the fashion of Drake’s journal.  All these items come packaged in a stylish wooden ‘travel case’ which has space for 19 PS3 games.  Talk about value for money *phew*.

Conclusion

Uncharted 3 has done the series proud and is a worthy addition to any gaming library.  Once again, Naughty Dog have outdone themselves by pushing the PS3 hardware even further to create a near-perfect gaming experience, with some of the best and most cinematic game-play and visuals you will encounter in modern gaming.  Uncharted 3 is the definitive adventure game, and I say that confidently even with the new Tomb Raider on the way (though no Tomb Raider game has come close to Uncharted, so won’t exactly hold my breath), so even though it’s not without its faults, I highly recommend it to anyone whoever wanted to experience an Indiana Jones style adventure.  Get it…get in now.

Grade: S

Rapid-Fire Reviews | Starship Troopers: Invasion

Info:

Genre: Science-fiction, animation

Director/s: Shinji Aramaki

Running Time: 88 mins

Budget: Unknown

Released: 21 July 2012 (Japan)

Okay, first thing’s first.  I feel that I need to clear up the first bit of bullshit about Starship Troopers: Invasion.  Claiming that this film is – “A fast-paced thrill ride that tops the original”, as it says on the cover is a ridiculously stupid statement, clearly designed to manipulate people into buying the film, as it is simply not so.  The original Starship Troopers (1997) was (and still is) an amazing film, filled with space marines, giant bugs and gratuitous violence, placing it among my all-time favourite sci-fi flicks.  Filmmakers attempted to replicate the awesomeness of the original with two sequels – Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004) and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008), but they turned out to be such a load of crap that needless to say, when Invasion came along, I completely overlooked it until I realized it was animated.  While Starship Troopers: Invasion has all the aforementioned ingredients that made the first film so great, it definitely lacks the energy and originality that gives a film everlasting re-playability.  The animation is great, seemingly photo-realistic at times, in a similar style to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and everything from the bugs to the space-cruisers have been faithfully recreated in CGI.  A notable difference is the mechanized power-armour that the troopers wear (resembling Master Chief somewhat) as opposed to the regular uniforms of the infantrymen as seen in the first film.  The characters in Invasion are relatively one-dimensional, expendable and utterly forgettable, lacking any modicum of soul that made their predecessors so interesting.  Even though some of the characters return in this sequel, including – Carmen Ibanez, Carl Jenkins and Johnny Rico (resembling Big Boss), they are a far cry from their former, charismatic selves.  My only other gripe with this film is the ‘Invasion’ title.  The bugs only get to Earth in the last twenty minutes, and there’s no actual invasion as the troopers manage to contain the bugs within the confines of the ship that brought them to the planet, so not exactly the all out mankind vs. giant alien bug brawl it should’ve been.

Conclusion

Starship Troopers: Invasion isn’t without its good points – there is plenty of action and gore present in the film and the animation is pretty damn good.  A few new bugs keep things interesting and though Invasion pales in comparison to the original film, it proves to be vastly superior to the last couple of sequels.

Grade: C

Rapid-Fire Reviews | Himizu ヒミズ

Info:

Genre: Crime, drama

Director/s: Sion Sono

Running Time: 129 mins

Budget: Unknown

Released: 5 September 2011

Himizu (Japanese Shrew Mole) has earned a certain amount of acclaim in the Japanese film industry as well as in certain Western circles for being a ‘masterpiece’ or ‘extraordinary’ however I cannot fathom as to why that is as this film is utterly pointless.  Himizu focuses on two teenagers who live a dystopian existence after the tsunami disaster in May 2011. Even though the disaster is used as the backdrop of the film to exemplify the hopeless dreariness of the situation, it pales in comparison to the dreary protagonists.  Sumida lives with his mother in a boat house, in no time she abandons him and soon after he kills his father – a worthless man who frequents the home in search of cash and alcohol.  In the beginning Sumida still goes to school and is stalked by Keiko who spends her time coating her bedroom wall with pages of random quotes that Sumida makes throughout the day.  Soon enough Keiko begins to speak to Sumida and when he stops going to school, she starts spending her days at Sumida’s home, even though he has absolutely no interest in her.  Himizu won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor and Actress, which is quite confusing as both protagonists display the usual amount of over-acting, and nonsensical garbage lines synonymous with many Japanese dramas, such as Sumida himself shouting “Sumida! Don’t give up!” Himizu is basically two hours of exaggerated teenage angst, screaming, pointless crying, abuse (as Sumida and Keiko slap one another around repeatedly) and stupidity as Sumida ‘descends into madness’ after slaying his father, deciding to “punish bad guys” in the last hour of the film which equates to him walking around town covered in paint (some of which he consumes), carrying a knife around in a bag which he never actually uses.  Adding to the melancholy of Himizu is the use of Mozart’s Requiem repeatedly throughout the film’s duration, two hours of the same musical composition, really?  What makes everything worse is the fact that Sumida’s misery is self-inflicted, as he never acknowledges or accepts the help of the people (squatters on his property) who actually care for him or try to help him, as he occupies his time with pointless screaming, loitering and for the most part – rolling in mud.

Conclusion

You’d be hard-pressed to take anything from this film as I certainly didn’t.  Himizu is a 129 minute waste of your life.  Circular, pointless and dreary, filled with forgettable performances and a senseless ending.  However, if there’s one film I would like to see Sumida and Keiko in, it’d be Battle Royale.

Grade: F

Rapid-Fire Reviews | The Amazing Spider-Man

Info:

Genre: Superhero, action

Director/s: Marc Webb

Running Time: 136 mins

Budget: $230 million

Released: 13 July 2012 (South Africa)

After a decade of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man (three films to be precise), Marvel Entertainment have rebooted the franchise with fresh faces, a new Spidey costume and an ‘alternate’ storyline, labeling this film as ‘The Untold Story of Spider-Man’Untold eh? Well, I find that rather confusing since The Amazing Spider-Man is essentially identical for all intents and purposes to 2002’s Spider-Man, which was a superior origin story.  And that’s just it, The Amazing Spider-Man is yet another origin story, that does not add anything new or creative enough to justify its existence.  Seriously, how many damn times do we need to see uncle Ben get killed, or Peter Parker being bitten by the spider that gave him his powers? It’s ridiculous, and to exacerbate matters further, The Lizard is the lamest villain out of all the bad guys put to screen, I think Peter Chao said it best – if you were a super-powered lizard man, with super lizard powers why on earth would you want to make every other human being a lizard person? It would render your powers useless as you’d effectively be putting everyone on the same level as you.  There’s also been a lot of debate over who the better Spider-Man is, Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, with Spider-Man 3 being referenced continuously as the reason for Garfield being superior.  Then again, it is a given that fan-boys would attack the weakest link of the series as opposed to its greatest strength, or has everyone forgotten just how good Spider-Man 2 really is?  That’s not to say that The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t worth watching, it has its moments, one scene involving a battle in the school’s library was quite entertaining and the addition of web-shooters is a nice touch, it’s just not enough to make this film truly great…or good for that matter, despite imdb’s ridiculous 7.6 rating.

Conclusion

We really, really did not need another origin story, as a continuation of the series would have enabled film-makers to focus on a completely new story as opposed to yet another retelling.  The Lizard is a shitty, uninteresting villain, that epitomizes the tired plot device of – Good-scientist-has-accident-and-turns-into-mutated-villain, and Andrew Garfield doesn’t seem to fit the Peter Parker mold all that well.  Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man serves as a 136 minute distraction at best, lacking any originality that may have warranted a second viewing.  Disappointing.

Grade: C-

Wallpapers | The Dark Knight Rises

Resolution – 1920 x 1080 | Aspect Ratio – 16:9

The Dark Knight Rises

Info:

Genre: Superhero

Director/s: Christopher Nolan

Running Time: 165 mins

Budget: $250 million

Released: 27 July 2012 (South Africa)

Plot:

Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham’s finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy - imdb

Review:

Before I begin, please be warned that this review does contain spoilers, usually I avoid commenting on aspects that would give away certain things about a film, however with The Dark Knight Rises it would be too difficult not to as the film is difficult to quantify given that it is just shy of three hours and that there is a myriad of things happening throughout its duration.

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.

The Dark Knight Rises is the long-awaited (and much-anticipated) conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise.  Set eight years after The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has since given up the cape and cowl and has been reduced to a recluse after Rachel Dawes’ (Maggie Gyllenhaal) death, refusing to see anyone, Bruce spends his days hidden away in his manor and as a result of this, Wayne Enterprises dwindles along with his fortune and reputation.  Bruce Wayne giving up on being Batman was the first thing that surprised me, as I assumed that The Dark Knight Rises would revolve around a more worldly, and finely tuned Batman whom had been fighting the good fight for the last eight years after defeating the Joker (Heath Ledger) but this is not so.  In fact, Batman has devolved somewhat in the sense that he’s been out of the game for such a long time that when trouble once again rears its head, one cannot help but get the feeling that he is hopelessly outclassed and you’d be forgiven for thinking so as Wayne hobbles along on his walking stick (due to the injury he sustained after the fall with Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight), further compounding his problems.  It would seem that The Dark Knight Rises is more about Bruce Wayne than Batman, as Bruce struggles to come to terms with the fact that he can no longer be Batman.  Bane’s arrival compels Wayne to become the Batman once more, and with Rachel gone, Wayne has nothing to lose except for his life, a fact which Alfred (Michael Caine) reminds him of when he tells him that the world needs Bruce Wayne not Batman and that Bane is not to be underestimated.

One of the most explosive duals ever put to screen.

Enter Bane – played by the brilliant Tom Hardy, Bane is the first notable character seen in The Dark Knight Rises as he makes his brilliant escape from CIA operatives in an opening scene involving men in tactical gear, extracting him from a plane mid-flight.  As many will agree, a good villain can either make or break a story, or steal it all together, much like the late Heath Ledger’s sterling performance as the Joker in the previous outing.  Needless to say, there will be an immediate comparison between the Joker and Bane, as viewers will attempt to determine which villain is the best and I believe this will be a difficult decision because both villains are equally great, but for different reasons.  Ledger’s Joker – a self-proclaimed ‘agent of chaos’ was creepy and menacing, from his voice to his mannerisms, including small details like constantly having to lick his lips due to the scars on either side of his mouth which created a perpetual grimace.  The Joker was all about creating madness and destruction, and proving that he could bring anyone down to his level.  Bane however is different, the first thing you’ll notice is the voice.  Bane wears a special headgear that garbles his speech,  and in order to make the character more menacing, Tom Hardy created a voice that would contradict his body, and it worked beautifully.  Obviously, Nolan had to change the Bane character in order to suit his stark version of the Batman universe and so instead of having Bane’s mask/suit inject him with the drug known as Venom (as seen in the comics), the mask in the film acts as an anesthetizing dispersal device that keeps Bane’s pain (after receiving grievous injuries to his face) below the threshold of being excruciating.  What makes Hardy’s Bane even more dangerous is that he used to be part of the League of Shadows before he was ex-communicated from the order. So not only is Bane masterfully trained and physically superior to Batman, he also proves to be a masterful tactician who manages to create more damage and anarchy than the Joker ever did, through a carefully laid out series of plans, raising the bar to a nuclear level.  As I stated previously, this film isn’t so much about Batman as opposed to Bruce Wayne, and in comparison, Batman has minimal screen time compared to Bane and Wayne.  There are two relatively short battles between Batman and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, namely the first encounter between the two which is absolutely brutal as a frustrated Batman is pushed to the limit and beaten to an inch of his life complete with the infamous knee-to-spine scene and a final battle that has the hero and villain going at it in broad daylight, amongst hundreds of other people in one of the most electric and furious fights put to screen.

Batman returns with a few new toys.

Cue the love interests, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).  Anne Hathaway portrays Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, but is never referred to by that moniker as the newspapers call her the ‘cat burglar’.  Nolan’s version of Catwoman is far more reserved than Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of the character in 1992’s Batman Returns or Halle Berry’s appalling performance in 2004’s train-wreck Catwoman, forsaking the cat-suit in favour of a polyurethan-coated spandex one and a sort of visor that resembles cat ears.  Marion Cotillard portrays Miranda Tate, an executive board member of Wayne Enterprises who attempts to get Bruce Wayne to rejoin society and continue his father’s work.  Cotillard also represents one of the films twists with her dual identity.  Initially the viewer is thought to believe that Bane is the son of Ra’s Al Ghul, however this is a misdirection as Tate turns out to be Talia Al Ghul and Bane her protector, though I’m sure that anyone who follows the comics will know that Ra’s had a daughter and not a son.

Though Batman doesn’t have access to the Tumbler (pictured), Bane manages to secure an entire host of them from Wayne Enterprises ‘off-the-books’ R&D department.

Another new character to the series is John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young police officer who uses sharp powers of perception and deduction to determine the identity of Batman.  Soon enough Blake is promoted to detective by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), and together with his aversion to the Harvey Dent coverup as well as his growing distaste for firearms, it would seem that Blake would be the ideal candidate for Batman’s successor.  As the film reveals John Blake’s legal name – Robin John Blake, his candidacy as the Bat’s heir is solidified.

So is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight? It’s a question and topic of debate that will carry on between movie goers for ages to come (I myself was asked this same question today) but it is a very difficult question to answer because both films are very different from one another.  The Dark Knight is a magnificent film, but for Christopher Nolan to succeed with a third and final installment it had to either match or surpass its predecessors.  Needless to say, whether you watched the write-ups or trailers of The Dark Knight Rises before actually watching the film itself, it would be impossible not to have high expectations as The Dark Knight set the benchmark for excellence, combine that with a plethora of media hype and hyperbole for this latest entry, and you’re going to have some pretty insane expectations of The Dark Knight RisesThe Dark Knight improved upon Batman Begins with the evolution of Batman himself with an improved suit, Batmobile (Batpod anyone?) and skill-set which he put to great use in order to defeat the Joker.  Since Bruce Wayne has been out of the scene for eight years in The Dark Knight Rises, his suit remains unchanged since the second installment and he is without the Tumbler (Batmobile) since its destruction from taking an RPG hit from the Joker.  As for Bane, he proves to be just as menacing as Ledger’s Joker, and far more sinister, given his imposing physique and his ominous body-language, not to mention the fact that he is also a far more capable fighter than the Joker, which is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt as he violently thrashes Batman.  Bane is not only physically challenging, as his mental faculties and abilities as a tactician rival that of Bruce Wayne himself and being as intelligent as he is, Bane also has some of the greatest lines in the entire trilogy.

Bane makes his escape from CIA custody.

Notable Bane quotes:

Gotham, take control… take control of your city. Behold, the instrument of your liberation! Identify yourself to the world!

Calm down, Doctor! Now’s not the time for fear. That comes later.

When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.

Theatricality and deception, powerful agents for the uninitiated. But we are initiated, aren’t we Bruce?

Ah you think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!

You fight like a younger man, with nothing held back. Admirable… but mistaken.

John Blake aka Robin.

Needless to say, The Dark Knight Rises isn’t perfect.  For one thing, I found it strange that a man (Bruce Wayne) who had been reduced to a recluse for eight years over his beloved’s death would so easily bed Miranda, whom he’s never taken interest in or doesn’t even share chemistry with, so Miranda/Bruce hookup – pretty stupid.  But perhaps the one thing that really cheapens the film is Nolan’s cop-out ending where Batman flies (in the Bat – essentially the bat-jet) over the ocean away from Gotham as he carries a neutron bomb which detonates, seemingly killing Batman.  Batman’s death would have made a poignant ending and would have remained in character with Nolan’s style but this was not so as Bruce Wayne programmed an autopilot into the plane (another one of the twists) some six months earlier, which he used to escape the blast.  What makes the ending worse is that the audience is made to feel the sadness and anguish of his death with the funeral and perhaps worst of all, the scene where Alfred breaks down with grief, only to have that all snatched away by an implausibly ‘happy’ ending.

Batman’s new vehicle – The Bat.

Conclusion

The Dark Knight Rises sets a new precedent for superhero films, in that it is a deep, thought-provoking and action-packed film that will demand your utmost attention from start to finish.  The Dark Knight Rises is a relentless film in that it requires you to constantly pay attention for the film is extremely long and has a lot to tell.  In my opinion, The Dark Knight Rises must be seen at least twice in order to fully appreciate all its many intricacies as the way you’ll watch it the second time will change because you’ll know who’s who with the result that you’ll focus on those characters more like Miranda for example, in order to see the signs and events that led up to her betrayal.  While many may agree that Heath Ledger’s Joker was a superior villain, Hardy’s portrayal of Bane is not to be overlooked as his representation of the infamous villain is perhaps one of the most impressive performances ever.  Overall, The Dark Knight Rises is a brilliant film (though not without flaws) and a worthy conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s superhero trilogy.  Highly recommended.

Grade: A+