TOMB RAIDER review

Developer: Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider: Legend)

Platforms: PS3 (version reviewed), Xbox 360, PC

Release Date: 5 March (US, UK)

I’ve never been a big follower of the Tomb Raider franchise. I’ve played bits of the previous games, and I saw the first movie, but other than that I’m mostly a stranger to the adventures of Lara Croft. As with pretty much everything these days, the franchise has gotten a gritty reboot. Can an old dog learn new tricks, or is this new beginning actually the end?

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A new tale with no ties to the previous titles, the story of Tomb Raider works mainly because so much attention had been paid to the character of Lara Croft. The game spends time letting you get to know her and shows how she developed from an innocent explorer, to frightened survivor, to hardened badass. I’ve not felt this much connection or sympathy for a character in a game since John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. Otherwise, the story is your basic Indiana Jones-type fair, but one with a lot more edge. This is a violent game, and earns its 18 certificate. From grizzly sacrificial murders to a scene where Lara wades her way through a river of blood, there is more shocking imagery in here than most horror films. It’s like a more f***ed-up version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Since we last saw Lara, the adventure platformer genre has been co-opted by the Uncharted franchise. Tomb Raider takes obvious queues from its contemporary, but adds elements from other games as well. Unlike Uncharted, Tomb Raider has a somewhat open world to explore for XP and treasures, much like Metroid Prime or Batman: Arkham Asylum. Also like those games, Lara gains and modifies her weapons and tools over the course of the game, which encourages you to backtrack to old locations to reach areas you couldn’t before. The platforming sections are brilliant, treading a fine line between classic Tomb Raider’s leaps of faith and Uncharted’s almost on-rails approach. The gunplay, whilst inferior to the platforming, is still a lot of fun and very challenging at points. There’s nothing more satisfying than headshotting an unsuspecting enemy with your bow and arrow before mowing down his buddies with a shotgun and finishing your last guy off with an arrow to the knee (I’m not making a Skyrim joke there. You can literally stab a guy in the knee with an arrow). Sure, it kinda goes against the whole “reluctant killer” thing, but it’s still fun. The puzzles are still here as well, and they are also fairly challenging. The game also has a multiplayer suite, but it’s pretty generic and feels tacked on. That, however, doesn’t spoil what is otherwise a fun and thrilling single player with enough length to be enjoyed playing through once without returning to find all the hidden gems.

Graphics wise, Tomb Raider is exactly Crysis 2 but it still looks great. A lot of attention has been paid to the environments, which all look distinctive and beautiful. The game seamlessly transitions between gameplay and in-game cutscenes; only the opening cut-scene is pre-rendered (and is pretty much just the initial trailer for the game anyway). The voice acting and motion capture here is excellent, particularly Lara herself, and the music perfectly matches the tone.

Tomb Raider is a fantastic game and one well deserving of your time. If Crystal Dynamics continue down this road for the rest of the franchise, I think they’ve found themselves a new fan. Whether you’re a Tomb Raider fanatic or just wanting something to hold you over until they announce Uncharted 4, this is the game for you.

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

STOKER review

Starring: Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Matthew Goode (Watchmen), Nicole Kidman (Eyes Wide Shut), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Director: Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy)

Writer: Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)

Runtime: 1 hour 38 minutes

Release Date: 1 March (US, UK)

For a movie from the director of the brutal but brilliant Korean picture Oldboy, you’d hope that his Hollywood debut would have much more impact. Sadly, Stoker is a misfire of a film; one that has a solid starting point but ends up crashing short of the finish line.

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The basic premise of the film is intriguing and it is what mainly carries the film throughout. It fulfils what most thrillers lack these days: unpredictability. I honestly had no idea where this movie was going, and once the truth is revealed it is genuinely shocking. Unfortunately, the film then falls into a rushed and anti-climactic ending, one that doesn’t seem to gel with the previous eighty minutes. The film is very much a slow burner, making the film feel much longer than its actual brief runtime. This works well at the start, but the film begins to drag before suddenly moving too quickly to properly comprehend the meaning of its ending. The film’s writing is inconsistent, moving from pretty decent to downright amateurish. The film’s opening scenes are full of “subtle” exposition that feels unnatural, and everyone outside of the main characters feels like a cookie-cutter stereotype. Wentworth Miller has never been that great an actor, but he should probably take a few more writing classes before he attempts to touch a word processor again.

The film has a strong principal cast who are given material juicy enough to have fun with, but they all often seem lost and confused. Wasikowska is again playing the emo-ish oddball she usually plays but to much more eerie effect, but she never really gives us enough to fully understand what is going through her warped mind. Matthew Goode’s performance feels too over the top; I know we’re supposed to be suspicious of him, but does he constantly have to act so creepy. We get it! Nicole Kidman is decent in her part but never gets enough to do, and Jacki Weaver briefly enters the picture before unceremoniously disappearing. The actors don’t feel well directed enough, possibly the result of a foreign director’s vision either not being spelled out well enough or getting lost in translation.

If I can say anything extremely positive about the film, it at least looks very pretty. The cinematography makes a lot of use of long tracking shots that are executed well, as well as plenty of other neat camera tricks. This gives the film a sense of style and originality the rest of the film is sorely lacking.

Stoker is a film that I can’t hate, but it lacks so much that I can scarcely call it good. It lacks enough originality and suspense to make it feel compelling, further worsened by poor writing, mediocre performances and a confusing ending. Park Chan-Wook was aiming for a Hitchcockian feel with this one but we instead got a Brian DePalma film, and not a good one.

FINAL VERDICT: 5/10

CLOUD ATLAS review

Starring: Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball), Jim Broadbent (Hot Fuzz), Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), Hugo Weaving (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)

Writers/Directors: The Wachowskis (The Matrix), Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run)

Runtime: 2 hours 52 minutes

Release Date: October 26 (US), February 22 (UK)

Based on the absurdly long book by David Mitchell (no, not that David Mitchell), Cloud Atlas is an absurdly long movie by the creative minds of The Matrix trilogy and Run Lola Run. Does this collage of stories and talents amount to more than the sum of its parts, or is it a jumbled mess of ideas?

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The film is made up of six different stories, with elements, themes and occasionally characters crossing between them. The problem with it is that these stories are told all at the same time, cross cutting between them constantly and randomly in attempt to highlight the similarities between them. What this ends up doing instead is making the film hard to follow at times. Often, certain stories are left to gather dust for a while for far too long, leading me to say “Oh yeah, that story still exists” more often than I should be. The film’s runtime is far too long; a good half hour could have been lost easily in the cutting room. The stylistic differences between stories also cause some major tonal whiplash. One second, you’re watching Halle Berry being chased by a hitman through San Francisco. Next second, you’re watching Jim Broadbent and his wacky pals get into some hijinks at the retirement home. It just feels uneven and makes it hard to care about all these stories. That, and some of the stories just aren’t that interesting. After seeing which directors directed which sections, I discovered tended to like Tykwer’s parts more than the Wachowskis. Being a big fan of The Matrix, this is upsetting. After this, Speed Racer and The Matrix sequels, its fair to say these siblings are one-hit wonders.

The cast of this movie is full of notable stars playing multiple varied roles. Actors change age, race and even sex between stories, which can lead to both amazement and unintentional hilarity. Tom Hanks probably performs best through all of the stories, confirming that he is still one of the best actors working today. Berry is better here than she has been in a while, but I’ve never thought she was that great an actress to begin with. Broadbent is as wonderful as he is in everything, whilst Whishaw provides a great performance in his centrepiece role. The ever-threatening Hugo Weaving plays the villain in every story he’s in, but it’s hard to take him seriously when he’s in drag doing his best Nurse Ratchet impression. Pity these performances are wasted on such weak material.

Despite the story woes, at least Cloud Atlas is a technical achievement. Every story has its own visual style and flair, making them easily distinctive and easier to identify when flip-flopping around constantly. The music is beautiful and easily the best thing about the film. There has been much debate about the quality of the make-up, and I’d say it is pretty mixed. Often it’s really impressive (several times, I didn’t realise who played who until the credits), but at other points it’s just unnerving; the aforementioned Weaving in drag and Doona Bae made up to look Caucasian are the two obvious ones. I’m not saying it’s racist, it just isn’t very convincing.

Cloud Atlas is a bold and beautiful experiment, but one that fails miserably. The intentions are noble and craftsmanship accomplished, but the film is too muddled and inconsistent to leave me feeling anything other than utter confusion and disappointment.

FINAL VERDICT: 4/10

ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES review

Developer: Gearbox Software (Borderlands)

Platforms: PS3 (version reviewed), Xbox 360, PC, Wii U

Release Date: 12 February (US,UK)

I am a massive fan of the Alien franchise, the first two films in particular. James Cameron’s Aliens has had a huge influence on the world of sci-fi, especially on video games. Games such as Doom, Halo and Gears of War have taken obvious influence from that movie, so how original can a game based on the original source material be? In the hands of Gearbox, it would be easy to assume this game would be certified gold. This couldn’t possibly go wrong. Right?

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First off, the story. Oh, the story. Taking place after the events of Alien 3, the game returns to the dreaded LV-426 for a story that is supposedly now official canon. And to that I say this: BULLS***! This has got to be one of the most contrived, lazy and downright awful attempts at making a proper sequel to Aliens that could have been attempted. The whole endeavour comes across as bad fan fiction, squeezing in every possible thing that was so great about the movie in an attempt to please fans, only to come off as pandering bollocks. The characters are flat, the scenario unoriginal, and the story never bothers to explain the most basic of questions. How did the Sulaco end up back over LV-426? (this is a question brought up several times in game, but always quickly shrugged off with a “I don’t know”. Point to writers: if there’s a plot hole, DON’T POINT IT OUT!) How did so many Xenomorphs manage to get on board? This and more plot holes are littered throughout, one of which I can’t bring up because of spoilers. But trust me, this isn’t that interesting a story. You’d be better off watching Alien Resurrection.

But the gameplay is what counts, right? Well, it’s your typical run-and-gun first person shooter. Not much more to it than that. Just go from room to room, blast some Xenos, and repeat for about six to eight hours. No real strategy or thought involved, just hold fire until everything dies. While this can lead to some cathartic fun, by the halfway mark the game runs out of ideas. This wouldn’t be so bad if the game wasn’t so piss easy. I played on hard and breezed through the game with the same amount of struggle I would get from playing any Call of Duty game on easy. This is mainly due to the absolutely retarded AI. The Xenomorphs, supposedly the most lethal killing machine in the galaxy, are dispatched with little effort or fear and their tactics never ranged more than “run up to you and smack repeatedly”. The game also has you fighting Weyland-Yutani soldiers, which just causes the game to lose all originality and just become another military shooter. And after a rather pathetic final boss, the game ends with little fanfare and, worse still, a f***ing cliffhanger. One of the few bright spots of the game is the multiplayer, which can be fun for a while but the severe lack of maps and the balancing issues between Marines and Xenomorphs causes this to become old way too quick.

This game has been in development for six years, and it shows. The graphics are severely outdated, with stiff character animations, muddy textures and some of the worst lip-synching this side of the PSone. The game is also incredibly buggy and unpolished. Among the problems present are: blatant clipping issues, audio drop-outs, poorly disguised load times behind really slow opening doors, people getting stuck on objects, the list goes on. The only good thing I can say about the visuals is that at least the lighting is pretty good. On the audio front, the game’s sound effects are spot on, especially the Pulse Rifle. Nothing is more satisfying than that sound followed by the squelching of alien flesh. The music is also great, both original and the tunes taken from the movie. The voice acting, however, is passable at best. They aren’t exactly given good dialogue to read, but even major players from the movie like Lance Henriksen sound bored out of their minds.

In the end, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a massive disappointment. The story is utter tripe, the gameplay is generic and unchallenging, and the graphics are outdated and unpleasant. After this and Duke Nukem Forever, Gearbox really needs to sort themselves out and put as much effort as they put into these games as they do into their Borderlands games.

FINAL VERDICT: 5/10

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD review

Starring: Bruce Willis (Looper) and Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher)

Director: John Moore (Max Payne)

Writer: Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)

Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes

Release Date: 14 February (US, UK)

What can I say about Die Hard that hasn’t been said? It’s the pinnacle of action movies, a game-changing motion picture that influenced the action landscape forever and made Bruce Willis an icon. The following sequels, though never living up to the original, were also entertaining diversions. I even like the fourth one, ridiculousness and all. But is the fifth outing one worth gearing up for, or has John McClane finally run out of luck?

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The plot of Die Hard 5 (I refuse to call it by that ridiculous title) is so bland, so banal, so utterly generic, that I’m struggling to remember key plot details just mere hours after watching it. After an incredibly slow start, the film finally kicks into gear but doesn’t keep up the pace. When there is action, it’s pretty run of the mill. When there isn’t, it is downright torturous. The film attempts to bring in a father-son dynamic between Willis and Courtney, but in the most half-assed overdone way. The constant bickering, the refusal to call McClane “Dad”, McClane always saving his son’s ass and not thanking him for it. It all just feels ripped from other movies; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade this ain’t. At least the movie is short.

If you know what to expect from Bruce Willis these days, you’ll get exactly that. His portrayal of his iconic role feels half-baked, as if Willis doesn’t know what’s going on or doesn’t care. His one-liners are pretty weak 85% of the time; some of them don’t even make sense (“I’m not smart. I’m just on vacation” WTF?). He doesn’t even feel like John McClane; it’s just Willis being Willis for the umpteenth-bazzilionth time. Jai Courtney attempts to pick up the slack, but the character of McClane Jr is given so little personality that he has nothing to work with. The two’s chemistry is passable at best, never getting close to the kind of relationship Willis had with Samuel L. Jackson or even Justin Long. But the villain is good, right? The Die Hard franchise is known for its memorable cast of villains, from Alan Rickman to Timothy Olyphant (OK, maybe not Olyphant). And the villains here are…Russians. Nothing that special or memorable about them. They’re just Russians. The film tries really hard to make these guys seem evil and just fail. They even try to tread out a real-life tragedy in attempt to make them seem more villainous; that’s just lazy and disrespectful.

But what about the action? That’s what we come to see these movies for. Every Die Hard movie has it’s memorable action scenes, from as simple as jumping off a building to as ridiculous as crashing a car into a helicopter. Many took issue with Die Hard 4.0 for taking the action to ridiculous levels, and those people are probably going to be even more pissed with this one. The action here is preposterous and not in a good way. Once in a blue moon does the film do something interesting, but nothing that memorable. The John McClane of the original Die Hard would never have survived some of the s*** he pulls off here. Remember how much glass hurt him in the first movie? F*** that, he’s constantly crashing through the stuff here with barely a scratch! Combine the unimaginative action with constant shaky-cam and sloppy editing, and you’ve got yourself a bland action movie that hardly feels like a Die Hard movie at any point. All in a day’s work for hackmaster John Moore. Even the biggest hater of Die Hard 4.0 would be begging for Len Wiseman to come back after seeing this atrocity.

Die Hard 5 is a spit in the face of the franchise, an embarrassment that should be quickly forgotten about and never spoken of again. The film barely resembles its roots and just goes for generic thrills straight out of the Michael Bay School of Schlock Filmmaking. Willis has already said he’s up for at least one more. It can’t get any worse than this, right? Right?!

FINAL VERDICT: 3/10

WARM BODIES review

Starring: Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class), Teresa Palmer (I Am Number Four), Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine), John Malkovich (Con Air)

Writer/Director: Jonathan Levine (50/50)

Runtime: 1 hour 38 minutes

Release Date: 1 February (US), 8 February (UK)

Many are quick to dismiss Warm Bodies as yet another lame attempt to cash in on the Twilight craze. Does this film suffer from the same problems as those abysmal films, or does this zom-rom-com have more on the inside?

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The plot of Warm Bodies is a very loose adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, but about as loose as you get. The film follows the romantic comedy structure to a T, but with its setting and characters it remains fresh. The film keeps up a good pace throughout, scattering just enough humour as it goes, before entering an entertaining but extremely brief climax. The writing here is consistently witty, with enough jabs taken at both the zombie and rom com genres to entertain fans of both genres.

The little kid from About a Boy has come a long way, hasn’t he? In what is his first leading role in a major film, Hoult excels. He plays undead well, letting his face do a lot of the talking to convey his emotions when his ever-constant monologue decides not to chime in. Palmer is decent as well, though her character isn’t as developed or interesting as Hoult. Rob Corddry provides a lot of good humour, whilst the enigmatic John Malkovich is barely used in a stereotypical role that could have been played by anyone.

Possibly the most unfortunate thing about Warm Bodies is the lack of gore. I know they’re trying to appeal to the teen market, but even for a 12 rated film the violence on display here is pretty tame. Sure, we get to see headshots and even some brain devouring, but it all feels held back. They could have gone a little messier and still gotten away with the rating. The movie also has a very indie soundtrack, often segwaying into montages that seem out of place at times.

Warm Bodies is the first genuinely good movie of the year, and does enough new things to make it stand out. Whilst not a classic, it is entertaining and has plenty of laughs to be worth a watch.

FINAL VERDICT: 8/10

MY TOP TWENTY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2012

One week to go until the Academy Awards, where we get told by a bunch of old Hollywood farts what the best movie of last year was. As usual, they are probably going to be disappointing but most of us will still watch anyway. But before then, I might as well get my opinion out of the way. Please keep in mind that I have not seen every film that came out last year, and that this is my opinion so don’t get fussy if your picks aren’t mine.

20. WRECK-IT RALPHA charming animated adventure set in the world of my other favourite pastime: video games. Full of great gags and obscure references, this is Disney’s best animated effort in a long time and also the best animated film of the year.

19. DREDD – Ignoring the unfaithful Stallone film, Dredd delivers us a film that does Judge Dredd justice (pun intended). Delivering action set pieces and dark humour reminiscent of classic 80’s bullet-fests, this movie delivers on everything it promises and more.

18. CHRONICLE – An interesting combo of superhero antics and found footage, Chronicle delivers a brilliant take on the rise of the super villain. Featuring a star-making performance by Dane DeHaan and having fun with its handycam style, Chronicle sets a new benchmark for what can be done with found footage.

17. THE MASTER – Featuring phenomenal performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master tells us a tale vaguely reminiscent of a certain religious leader. With its astonishing 65mm cinematography and all the quirks you expect from a PT Anderson flick, The Master is a long journey worth taking.

16. LOOPER – Time travel is always a fascinating subject for sci-fi movies, and it’s great when someone can dig up some fresh ideas for the concept. Rian Johnson did just that with Looper. Sure, the plot doesn’t make complete sense when you really think about it but even the movie seems aware of that fact. Don’t miss this interesting sci-fi tale.

15. KILLING THEM SOFTLY – Depicting America in a light that isn’t exactly sunshine and flowers, Killing Them Softly is a bleak and violent comment on the state of US society. Featuring stellar performances from the entire principle cast and great use of slow-mo, this is one of the most underrated films of the year.

14. JACK REACHER – Tom Cruise decides to stop grinning for once and becomes a gritty crime-solving machine in this stylish thriller. Bringing back that classic 70’s/80’s thriller feel, Jack Reacher fills this somewhat familiar story with some well done fight scenes and a good sense of humour. It’s a pity we’ll probably never see that sequel.

13. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN – Whilst I still have a fondness for the original Raimi films (yes, even the third one to an extent), this reimagining truly brings the wall-crawler to life in a fashion more suiting to our times. Andrew Garfield delivers a Spider-Man much more believable and flawed than Tobey Maguire ever could, and action sequences that rely more on practicality than CG. I can’t wait see what Marc Webb can come up with in his imminent sequel.

12. FLIGHT – Denzel Washington gives another Oscar worthy performance in this brilliant drama. A true return to form for the great Robert Zemeckis, Flight’s opening scenes are some of the best in recent memory and, while the rest of the film never matches up to it, still tells a tale of alcohol and lies worth watching.

11. THE RAID – This Indonesian action-fest is a real kick in the backside for Hollywood action movies. With some of the most inventive and bone-crunching fight choreography ever put on camera, The Raid remains some of the most fun I had in a cinema last year. With action scenes this great, who cares if the story is a bit generic?

10. THE AVENGERS – Marvel pulled off what many saw as impossible by combining several of their heroes into one giant nerdgasm. Joss Whedon was the perfect choice to pull this diverse set of characters together in a way that doesn’t feel too contrived. The film does what many Hollywood blockbusters fail to do (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay’s Transformers) by setting up their characters well enough that you give a s*** during the third act of chaos. My only worry is: how the hell are they going to top this?

9. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – This indie gem deserves a lot more attention. With its hilarious script and fun performances from the principle cast, Safety Not Guaranteed shows how much you can do with a minimal budget and still tell a story this high concept. I can’t say much more; you just have to watch the movie.

8. DJANGO UNCHAINED – Tarantino has returned in top form with his best film since Pulp Fiction. A bloody ode to the Spaghetti Western, the all-star cast and witty script heighten this film beyond just a bunch of references to Sergio Leone films. Easily his most accessible film and also quite possibly his most fun.

7. SKYFALL – 007 has finally washed the taste of Quantum of Solace out of his mouth, and has returned in one of the best Bond movies ever. Javier Bardem’s bad guy is a true match for Bond in every facet, and gives Judi Dench the swansong she deserves for such an important role. Sam Mendes proves he can do more than just Oscar-bait dramas with this film that shows up Christopher Nolan and his decent-but-incredibly flawed The Dark Knight Rises.

6. ZERO DARK THRITY – The hunt for Osama Bin Laden has quickly gotten the Hollywood treatment, and who better to tackle the tale than the team behind The Hurt Locker. Jessica Chastain gives a career-defining performance in this thriller that shows the events leading up to that fateful raid in a neutral manner that doesn’t try to spoon feed you it’s own opinion.

5. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS – Martin McDonough’s Tarantino-esque tale of dognapping and screenplays is a terribly bleak comedy of epic proportions. Sam Rockwell’s performance is one of his best, and the witty script provides many a good jab at the quality of writing in American crime films. A bloody good time.

4. THE SESSIONS – A charming true story that will make you both laugh and cry, John Hawkes’ performance is the best I’ve seen all year and it is a true crime that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his efforts. Helen Hunt and William H. Macy are great in their supporting roles, and the story manages to leave you satisfied despite the situation these characters end up in.

3. ARGO – Speaking of Oscar crimes, where is Ben Affleck’s nomination for Best Director? The man has crafted here one of the most intense, engaging and entertaining dramas in recent memory. The script is quick and witty, the cast all perfectly fit their roles (except maybe Mr. Affleck himself, but he’s still great anyway), and the third act is thrilling despite the fact there is little to no action involved.

2. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS – How could this not be on my list? Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon have crafted one of the most inventive, crazy, hilarious and jaw-dropping horror/comedies ever conceived and does it all with a straight face. Every time I thought “How could this get any crazier?”, it did. A true landmark for the genre, it’s going to be hard to take the Evil Dead remake seriously after watching this.

1. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – My pick for my favourite film of the year features no guns, explosions, aliens or superheroes. It does, however, have a great script and powerful performances from all involved. Bradley Cooper shows range here I thought he never had, Jennifer Lawrence manages to trump all her other brilliant performances, Robert De Niro gives his best role in years, and even Chris Tucker comes off as good here. David O. Russell has managed to tell a story here that touches the heart and the funny bone in equal measures, and I can’t wait to watch this masterpiece again.

WRECK-IT RALPH review

Starring: John C. Reilly (Boogie Nights), Sarah Silverman (School of Rock), Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Jane Lynch (Role Models)

Director: Rich Moore (Futurama)

Writers: Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids) & Jennifer Lee

Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes

Release Date: 2 November (US), 8 February (UK)

Disney’s new film set in the land of video games has finally arrived on British shores (seriously, what is with Disney and their stupidly staggered release dates?). Is it worth dunking your quarters in, or should you just call it game over?

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Whilst Wreck-It Ralph does take place in a unique and interesting world, the story here is pretty standard fare. It’s still consistently entertaining and never boring, but anyone with a basic knowledge of story structure and clichés can probably see several plot points from miles away, which really put a damper in a movie that is otherwise very imaginative and fun. The writers have clearly done their homework, filling the film with many creative in-jokes that only the nerdiest of gamers will get (which includes yours truly!). References to everything from Street Fighter to Metal Gear Solid are scattered around, which add a real authenticity to the film as well as adding some neat gags. Still, the film could have done with even more, especially in regard to the worlds we see. The film has so much promise with all these different games we could be hopping between, but we spend most of the film stuck in one environment. If and when they make a sequel, more gaming jumping is immediately required.

Wreck-It Ralph’s cast seems perfectly tailored to their roles. Reilly plays the titular character well, providing the sympathy required for such a character. Silverman, whilst occasionally grading, provides an equal quality as Vanellope. McBrayer and Lynch are fantastic in their roles and I wish we could have gotten more of them. Alan Tudyk also shines in his role as King Candy, perfectly mimicking the Mad Hatter voice in a way that feels appropriate.

The animation on display here is phenomenal. The way they’ve designed and animated these character to be like actual video games characters is astonishing and again adds to the authenticity of the proceedings. The film is constantly visually interesting, and the music is also great at mimicking that video game feel.

Wreck-It Ralph is the best animated film I’ve seen in a few years and one I’m keen to revisit soon. The film is begging for a sequel, and I will be first in line if it does indeed get made.

FINAL VERDICT: 8.5/10

FLIGHT review

Starring: Denzel Washington (Training Day), Kelly Riley (Sherlock Holmes), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski)

Director: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump)

Writer: John Gatins (Real Steel)

Runtime: 2 hours 18 minutes

Release Date: 2 November (US), 1 February (UK)

Denzel Washington stars as a pilot with a serious drinking problem in Flight. Does this film take off in style, or does it crash and burn?

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The opening scenes of Flight are some of the most expertly crafted and intensely thrilling scenes I have seen in a long time. The plane crash centrepiece feels authentic and really puts you into the moment, and the way the film quickly sets up the character of Whip shows great character work and performance. Once that plane crashes, however, the film takes a slight dive in quality. The film goes around in circles for a little while trying to emphasize Whip’s tragic flaw, but his problem is pretty clear within the first scene; we don’t need to be constantly reminded. A scene or two could have been cut here and had no impact on the emotional climax of the film, which truly forgoes usual movie logic and seriously grounds the movie in reality. By no means is the rest of the movie bad, it just fails to match the stupendous quality of those first fifteen minutes.

Denzel is probably one of the best actors working today, and he delivers another marvellous performance here. His portrayal of an alcoholic feels much more genuine and believable than most film drunks. While his character could easily come off as a self-destructive asshole, Denzel manages to keep enough of his natural charm to make sure the audience is balanced towards his side. The rest of the cast does a great job as well. Kelly Riley truly gets to show off her talent here playing a recovering heroin addict, but her character gets faded out of the movie with little impact and her story never feels properly concluded. Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood also provide good support as Whip’s defense. John Goodman is also here playing comic relief that too often feels out of touch with the rest of the movie, almost as if he walked right off the set of The Big Lebowski. He’s good with what he’s given, but he just seems a little OTT for such an emotionally dark film.

It’s great to see Zemeckis working in the land of the living again instead of with soulless mo-cap, and he’s still got it. Zemeckis directs the film effectively, but never lets his style get in the way of the drama. Apart from the plane crash, this is pretty much a straight drama, and the film never tries to hide this with fancy cinematography or bombastic music. The film features heavy use of Rolling Stones music, which eventually gets overbearing. I love the Stones as much as the next guy, but this just gets bloody ridiculous.

In the end, Flight is an engaging film with an opening that is worth the price of admission on its own. Zemeckis has returned to live action in style and, while its unlikely Denzel will walk away on Oscar night with a statue in his hand, he gives a wonderful performance worthy of praise regardless.

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

LINCOLN review

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Sally Field (Forrest Gump), Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black)

Director: Steven Spielberg (War Horse)

Writer: Tony Kushner (Munich)

Release Date: 9 November (US), 25 January (UK)

Spielberg’s long gestating biopic about the freer of the slaves has finally reaches British shores. Is it made of pure Oscar gold, or is it just bait?

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Being a British person, I don’t have an encyclopaedic history of the life and works of Abraham Lincoln but I know the basics. Luckily, the film covers just about enough of it that it is understandable to an uninformed audience. However, that doesn’t stop the movie from being sluggish. This film is far too long by a good half hour and could have been easily cut down without missing too much. That’s not to say that the movie is bad; in fact, when it’s good it’s amazing. But there were far too many moments where I started to get restless and wanted things to move on. To worsen these matters, the film has a great ending point but then prattles on pointlessly for another 15 minutes just so we can see Lincoln’s death (c’mon, that’s not a spoiler!). We didn’t need to see that; the movie had accomplished its goal by that point.

Spielberg has assembled a massive cast for this film, so much so that great respected actors get relegated to measly roles in some cases. Regardless, everyone is really good. Praising a Day-Lewis performance is as expected as the sun setting, but it is really good anyway. He commands every scene he’s in and truly inhabits this character more than anyone who has ever played the role. Sally Field is also great as his wife, whilst Tommy Lee Jones shines in his supporting role that provides some great drama and even a little comedy.

You generally know going into a Spielberg movie how it’s going to feel, but that never stops it from being beautiful. They’ve really managed to capture the feel of the period, from the costumes to the sets. The cinematography here is really good and keeps the film flowing even during its slow moments, whilst John Williams supplies a familiar but still fitting and grandiose score.

Overall, Lincoln is exactly the kind of movie that appeals to the Academy, but not so much for me. Maybe it’s because I’m not American, maybe it’s because I’m too young, but it didn’t appeal to me so much. It is worth seeing and does deserve some awards come Oscar night, but I have no really want to ever watch it again.

FINAL VERDICT: 8/10