“There Are Many Things Which You Have Not Seen…”
Rather annoyingly, yet undeniably avoidable, the amount of rabble surrounding the release of The Great Wall, the latest from Hero and The House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou, seems to be one of a rather negative manner, focusing primarily on the notion of “whitewashing” which has encompassed the film’s production since its’ inception and the original announcement of Matt Damon in the lead role of a movie which consists of a primarily Chinese cast. Once again, cinematic history has been brought up to the floor in terms of the so-called “white saviour narrative”, a cinematic construction which has tarnished a selection of films ranging from To Kill A Mockingbird to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and whilst such an argument seems to be one in which I tend to extensively avoid, the case of Damon being front and centre of a film seeped in Chinese culture does seem particularly strange to say the least. After watching the movie however, the main concern regarding The Great Wall is how unbelievably boring and bone-shatteringly dull it actually is, with Yimou’s big budget project akin more to a Gods of Egypt-type disaster than as monumental and wondrous as the titular wall itself.
During a frivolous attempt into the heart of China to gather supplies of the precious “black powder”, Matt Damon and Game of Thrones star Pedro Pascal stumble across the famous Great Wall of China, helmed by a multitude of soldiers who are preparing for battle against the Taotie, a mythical alien race who rise every sixty years and attempt to destroy and kill anything and everything the other side of the wall of which has imprisoned them. Cue awful CGI and even worse dialogue, The Great Wall is the type of movie you can only scratch your head at in bemusement of the fact that such a film actually managed to pass through the first phase of development without someone having the balls to stand up and say, “this is a bit pants isn’t it?” Whilst Matt Damon’s involvement in the project at all is baffling, such a notion is completely forgotten five minutes into the movie when the whole audience in my particular screening realised what they had go themselves into. For a movie which cost 150 million dollars to make, The Great Wall is the biggest waste of a budget since Waterworld, a flop and a half of a so-called “epic” which highlights the argument that just because it’s bigger, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.
Overall Score: 3/10
“Is War The Only Answer?”
When it comes to past live-action video game adaptations that have made it on to the big screen within the past, let’s say the record has not been the best so far. I mean look at Hitman: Agent 47 last year, what a load of rubbish that was and whilst others have trembled in the wake of mediocrity or downright awfulness, 2016 was tapped as the year for the reinvention of the genre with not only Assassins Creed hitting the big screen but Warcraft too, helmed by self-proclaimed fan Duncan Jones, director of sci-fi greats such as Moon and Source Code. Although I can admit to never playing a single second of Warcraft in the past, Jones’ behemoth of a summer blockbuster was a surprising popcorn romp, one that indeed has a wide range of flaws and weaknesses, but one that was never challenging or seemed to be verging on the edge of boredom throughout its’ questionable two-hour plus runtime. CGI galore and Flash Gordon esque costume design. What more does one want?
Amidst unpronounceable locations and names, Warcraft essentially focuses on the battle between Orcs and humans, coincided with some pretty funky CGI magic and featuring warlocks, wizards and flying eagle bird things within the realm of what is essentially a rip-off of Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings comparisons do not stop there however, with similar themes and even similar characters resulting in a fundamental likeness on the surface but Warcraft falters on the scale of the latter’s depth where even though there were some characters worth caring about, others simply acted either as canon fodder for giant hammers or as a tent-pole for extraordinarily polished suits of armour. Warcraft is set to be the starter pistol for another heavy-hitter of a blockbuster series and although it is indeed not perfect, far off in fact, Warcraft does the job and does it solidly, smashing humans to pieces as it traverses the world of humans in the 21st century. Over to you Assassins Creed, let’s see if you can do better.
Overall Score: 6/10
“In The Coast Guard They Say You Go Out, They Don’t Say You Gotta Come Back…”
Based upon “The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue” by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, Craig Gillespie’s The Finest Hours is a film that intends to be as gripping and wet-soaked as the shores of Cape Cod but ultimately comes off as more of a damp squib, with a cast including Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Eric Bana not enough to save it from the pit of mediocrity it safely floats upon before inevitably sinking into the realms of history. Much like the true-life tale, an anecdote I’m sure incredibly popular and well versed between the secular, sea-wise clans of the U.S. Coast Guard, The Finest Hours is a movie that has somewhat been hidden under the radar and away from the cinematic masses, with not even a trailer being in sight within my many ventures to the world of cine over the course of the past few months or so, and with this in mind, the sheer lack of advertisement and press-hounding may indeed result in the film not exactly finding a key audience. Were it a more intriguing tale of survival in line with other sea-faring adventures such as Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi, The Perfect Storm and even, see it to believe it, Titanic, perhaps The Finest Hours could have been the riveting adventure it perhaps wanted to be seen as.
Adding to the mediocrity is the fundamental saccharin sweet nature of the movie, with the influence of Disney being particularly noticeable within scenes that not only encourage the burning sensation of a face-palm, but also result in either a painful palpitation of a cringe-induced stasis or a desire to swiftly stick fingers down your throat in order to release the sickly build-up of Disney-induced diseases. Aside from the land of over-sentimentality, award for most unintentional psycho, co-dependant girlfriend of the year has to go to Holliday Grainger for her role as Chris Pine love interest, Miriam Webber, a role which could easily be seen as a mid-20th century portrayal of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Seriously, if you aren’t put off by the possibility of a creepy girlfriend by The Finest Hours, then nothing will. In a nutshell therefore, The Finest Hours sure ain’t the film it would love to be, with a sheer lack of threat or suspense killing the film stone dead, a film which requires such in order to be seen as truly worthwhile. See it in a Blockbuster near you. Oh wait, this isn’t 2003. Just catch it when you can, but don’t rush to see it.
Overall Score: 5/10
Appetite for Destruction
If there were still any doubt that 2015 was indeed year of the blockbuster, then you only need to look at the release of San Andreas, an annoyingly over-advertised disaster movie set in the sun-soaked state of California starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Carla Gugino. and Paul Giamatti, whilst being directed by Brad Peyton, whose back catalogue of directorial credits include classic films such as Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Ha, no. So, any good you ask? Proceed with caution, it might get rough.
When it comes to movies such as San Andreas, there is always a recipe for disaster (pun intended) which tends to include fundamental and key box-ticking traits in order for it to be classed as a success. For example, one of these characteristics include the introduction and development of certain characters who we follow throughout the destruction that ensues all around them which whilst is off killing waves of incidental human life that the audience usually don’t really care about, seems to miraculously spare our beloved heroes and heroines. In the case of San Andreas, these characters are manifested into the body of Chief Raymond Gaines (Johnson), a man so extraordinary it was surprising not to see him declare himself as part of the Avengers during the ease-filled nature of not only ripping a car door from it’s hinges, not only being able to hot-wire everything and anything in his path, not only being able to breath underwater for what seemed like an eternity, but to also keep the same expression regardless of the situation in which he appears. I mean, I love The Rock, but it is painstakingly obvious after watching San Andreas that dramatic, expressionist acting is not a career path he should be aiming for.
The golden word that came to mind whilst watching San Andreas was cringe with it being filled to the rafters with cliche after cliche due to its’ simply dire script in which the two English characters are made to look like court jesters whilst American hero Dwayne Johnson pretty much portrays God. Do I care for him and his family? Not one damn bit. Top comedy marks however go to the inclusion of Kylie Minogue who overtakes Rita Ora as top contender for worst cameo of the year in a scene that filled me with unintended laughter inside, whilst worst parent of the year goes to the stupid mother who leaves her child on top of the Hoover Dam in a scene which looked good on the surface in terms of effects, but ultimately fell into the black-hole of emptiness that was the films’ depth and substance, a phrase that pretty much sums up the entirety of San Andreas.
Aside from all the negativity, there are some good points that should be mentioned. Paul Giamatti is the best thing in it in terms of acting whilst the sheer scale of destruction that is depicted on screen makes the battle at the end of Man of Steel look like a typical teenage tiff, emphasising the notion that if its’ spectacle you want, San Andreas definitely delivers. So all in all, bring the popcorn, leave your brain at home, San Andreas is many things, an insult to your brain, a symphony of destruction, but one thing is for sure, its’ only a bit-part player in the catalogue of blockbusters that make up 2015 in film.
Overall Score: 4/10
Unlucky Number Seven
Julianne Moore. Oscar Winner. Jeff Bridges. Oscar Winner. Kit Harrington. He knows nothing. In terms of an A-List cast, Seventh Son does pretty well, with it even having the chance to show off rising star Alicia Vikander who seems to be in absolutely everything this year, from Ex Machina to Testament of Youth alongside Jon Snow himself. Based upon the novel, The Spook’s Apprentice, something of which I was unaware of before watching the film, Seventh Son tells the tale of seventh son of the seventh son Tom Ward, played by Prince Caspian’s Ben Barnes, who is taken under the wing of Jeff Bridges’, John Gregory, the legendary “spook”, who is tasked with defending humanity from the dark supernatural forces around them, including Julianne Moore’s Mother Malkin, the renowned evil blood-magic witch. With such a cast, and a pretty cool premise including all the mystical tropes of dragons, witches and sword-fights, Seventh Son has to be nothing short of amazing, surely? Erm. no. It really isn’t.
Firstly, from the kick-off, Jeff Bridges is incomprehensible. Imagine Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, mashed together with a drunk Billy Connolly and that’s pretty much how Bridges has chosen to play this particular role, although, to be honest, none of what he says really matters throughout the 100 minutes run-time, with the script being unbelievably dull and the characters even more so, particularly Barne’s, Tom Ward, who will take some beating to not win worst and, or, most forgettable main character in a film released this year. Truly awful. As for newly crowned “Best Actress”, Julianne Moore, her performance as the witch/dragon/thing antagonist has made me think twice whether she was right to gain such an award earlier this year. In my opinion, Moore and “Best Actor”, Eddie Redmaybe, both made secret pacts with Hollywood that involved both of them being given Oscars as long as they performed as bad as they could at being baddies in other films released this year.
Talking of Eddie Redmayne and Jupiter Ascending, Seventh Son at least has one up on the latter by having rather enjoyable action sequences throughout, particularly in ones when the General Grievous/Kali-esque warrior is present, but Seventh Son is definitely at the level of the abomination that was Jupiter Ascending earlier this year. It’s dull. It’s badly CGI’d. It’s a total waste of time. There was talk of Seventh Son being turned into a franchise for the future. If that franchise is going to be at this level however, don’t waste your time lads and lasses. Wait for Star Wars.
Overall Score: 4/10
I truly cannot believe that I left it so long to play this game. I have just wrapped up playing it and it’s safe to say that the game was one of the best I have played. With the morale choices, the cause and effects moment that shapes the story, I find myself emotionally attached, possibly a little drained. A game, with such a detailed, exuberant story and character development has managed to make me feel for the characters in a way that I would not normally do. Moments of sheer panic make me crease, fear making too much noise or shouting at the screen for the stupid thing I just did.
Just looking back through the story, reminiscing on the short, but wondrous journey I’ve just undertaken, I feel a sense on anger and dismay at how we ended episode 5. Leaving Clementine to wonder the world alone, in search for who ever you told her to look for is dark and really kicks you in the teeth when you could have kept Lee if he didn’t just go grabbing things. It was dark, gritty and disturbing, especially when you don’t know who the two silhouettes are (Just downloaded 400 Days, so hopefully that will shed some light on it for me). It’s a testament to how well the game was scripted and directed, you felt for the characters like you would in the books. It doesn’t help that I had a soft spot for Clem. A bond between her and Lee was adorable and blossomed quickly but she played an asset all the way through, which other character didn’t. With the love for some of the characters, you also hate a few and I tended to them in the best of fashion…
The ability to change the outcome of he story is crazy, every twist and turn is calculated for. Extra lines written, new dialogue for each part which also affects the story. It’s a complicated process and is just stunning to look at it being done. It’s a shame that you can’t save certain people, most notably would be Lee. Without him and the announcement of a season 2 makes it unknown territory with new characters and could leave you with no answers at the end.
There is only a few problems I had with this game. Fortunately, I bought the hard copy and got all of the episodes, but I feel those that did could have felt a little cheated on the purchases. My second issue is the visuals. They are gorgeous and remind me of Borderlands but darkness levels plummet at points that make it really difficult for you to even see Lee, and some of the smaller textures, like the bushes, looked a little messy. Thirdly, the Sound is variable. I found myself turning the volume up and down continuously, alongside a lot of the glitching and buggyness, it was making it hard to watch the videos, which was a let down. Finally, the last problem I have is with the shooting. Aiming is incredibly difficult, sluggish and unresponsive. Aiming on FPS games is crisp and easy to use, but it takes the biscuit for me. Glitching about as I’m trying to shoot makes it hard enough and the sluggish movement isn’t helping anyone.
So overall? Due to a few technical issues, I shall be giving this a 9/10. With a little more focus on the technical aspects of the game, season 2 should be one hell of a ride. Please comment if you would like a review of 400 days once I’m done playing and be sure to check out the new youtube channel that is in the works. Has a few Walking dead testers on there but check it out! – http://www.youtube.com/user/BlackRibbonGaming
Seeing it is coming out tomorrow and I will be sat at my door waiting for it, expect it to be quiet until I smash it out.
This is pretty much teasing, I love this and can’t wait to play it. Lets hope it lives up to it predecessors!
Yes it’s linked to my favourites on youtube, help yourself to sift through and see what I could be reviewing in the future!
Here we go guys, one of the top games for this year…which should have been last year!, but lets hope that the delays for fixes and new ideas all work out!
Here we work our way out of the sunken city of rapture and move well up into the sky to fling between lines, blow some heads open, scream with terror, giggle at the extreme violence and absorb every drop of the story that we have got used to from the previous games. On it’s release day, I would have had this bad boy on pre-order for a year!, to the day!
I can tell you now, I will be smashing this game so god damn hard on release day. I just hope my day at work flies by rapidly so I can become the gaming hermit I was born to be.
Lets hope it lives up to it’s hype!
Expect a review a few days after I have completed it. I will not be writing a first thoughts piece, mainly as I will be glued to my TV screen!
Christoph Waltz Django
Animated short film:
Animated feature film:
Life of pi – Claudio Miranda
Life of pi
Anna Kerinina – grew up in the UK
Make up and hairstyling:
Live action short film:
Documentry short subject:
Searching for sugar man
Best foreign language film:
Best sound mixer:
Zero Dark Thirty & Skyfall
Best supporting actress:
production design and set decoration:
Life of pi
Ang Lee – life of pi
Best leading actress:
Jennifer Lawrence – silver linings play book
Beat leading actor:
Daniel Day-Lewis [Lincoln] – First actor to win 3 times in this category.