22 November 2007

I am Ripper! Tearer! Slasher! Gouger!

And I think I've seen this movie before...

Yes, I saw Beowulf; and whilst I certainly enjoyed it, there was a distinct aftertaste of 300 going on there. Lots of manly shouting, pseudo-catchphrases and, well...partially concealed male nudity. Still, the CGI was, quite frankly, astonishing, and the final battle with the dragon was visually on par with anything that the Lord of the Rings offered. I'll cook up a proper review at some point - along with one for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which I also had the misfortune of seeing. And I suppose you can guess what I thought of it already!

Start work tomorrow; but honestly, I'm totally relaxed. Bit apprehensive, I suppose, but beyond that I'm more than up for it! Should be a blast, and hopefully I'll meet some new people to keep me company, seeing as everyone else is buggering off home for Christmas, and I'm stuck here. Ho hum, and all that jazz.

Oh yes! I bought Spider-man 3 for the bargain price of £9.30 including P&P. God, I love the Amazon marketplace; so many great deals! So little time! I'm inclined to disagree with most critics of Spider-man 3; I mean, okay, the story was a tad more confuzzling than the first two, but so long as your brain is switched on, you can keep up. And the action sequences were a little more...epic too, and that just added to the fun. So yeah, as good as 1, not as good as 2. Great stuff.

Well, that's it. Fun stuff all 'round, and I suppose I'll slap in another post in a few days once I've got a few days of work under me belt.


19 November 2007

Yay! We're out of the Euro Cup! Wait...what?

Yup, Scotland bombed out on Saturday. Nothing to be done about it, the Italians are cheating bastards (they shove our defend over, then collapse themselves and get awarded a free-kick); and we lost concentration in the first two minutes. But otherwise, it was actually some of the best football we played for the entire tournament! We looked dangerous throughout, and whilst we did miss chances...well, what team doesn't?

Of course, this is all gossip; the Italians won 2-1 and we're out of the European Cup. Oh well. There's always the world cup. *sigh* Anyways; I did mange to get a video of the very epic singing at the match, and here it is. It was pretty intense, right up until they scored in the second minute.

Had some wanker saying something about 'Jocks not being the world-beaters they thought they were'; promptly removed his comment, the moron.

I have a job! It's a miracle! For those of you who haven't experienced Edinburgh's Christmas/New Year celebrations, they set up a massive ice rink in Prince's Street gardens; and I be working at that! It's only from the 22nd of November to the 6th of January; but at least it's experience, and I can hopefully get something marginally more permanent afterwards. The pay's good, and to be honest I'm just glad they hired me.

Have been neglecting my novel, for reasons unknown (*cough* Halo 3 *cough cough*); but I'm trying to get the story straight in my head once again - there was a moment when it all seemed a bit scrambled, and I'm attempting to amend that situation.

Aside from that, not much has happened. So that's me signing off!


30 Days of Night Review

Vampire movies are an interesting bunch; no matter how many times the exact same thing is done, people will almost certainly fork up the dollars for the next one, regardless of it's quality. Thing is, with that in mind, 30 Days of Night is actually surprisingly good.

So, in the tradition of my previous reviews, let's begin with plot. Barrow, northern Alaska, and town Sherrif Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) is coming across all kinds of strange goings on. First, someone steals all the satelite and cell phones from the area and promptly burns them; then kills all of the town's sled-dogs and finally destroys the town's only helicopter. As it turns out, this was the ploy of The Stranger, who acts as a harbringer of 'Them'. And 'They' turn out to be, you guessed it, vampires, and when the town is plunged into thirty days of night, they begin their feasting.

David Slade, in only his second feature, is quickly becoming one of the most interesting directors working today. His first feature - Hard Candy - was a gem of a thriller that this very reviewer cited as an 'engrossing experience', and 30 Days of Night is just as interesting. The first thing that Slade does is use the setting to his advantage; ramping down the colours so that everything is in shades of grey. Except, of course, the reds; and this provides an astonishing contrast when the claret does start a-flowing, with blood spraying across the pitch white snow with astonishing ferocity.

The visualisation of the vampires, too, is quite brilliant, and though it is indeed mostly down to the graphic novel upon which the film is based, it's still a refreshing change from the standard extended canines and shocking blue eyes. And Danny Huston is a fascinating screen presence as the lead vampire Marlowe; delivering the strange, guttaral language of the vamps with a mesmerising gravity.

That's not to say that the film is devoid of other decent performances; Josh Hartnett is an intriguing mess of fuzzy motivations and brown-eyed intensity, and much of the supporting cast is suitably scared and violent in equal measures.

There are some great horror moments too; the little girl who’s turned into a toothy vampire is astonishingly unnerving in its execution, and the scenes of the survivors huddled in various attics and stores keep the tension piled up high. And whilst the story does seem to bounce from totally unpredictable to ‘saw that coming’ at the drop of a hat – including the standard ‘he’s behind you!’ moments and a ending that I honestly never saw coming - it’s easy enough to follow and interesting enough to give the horror scenes that extra oomph.

There is one thing that I’d point out; and that’s that the movie is at the very highest end of the 15 certificate. There are some really quite unpleasant moments – both in terms of gore detail and in terms of amount thereof – that may have some viewers writhing with discomfort, or even forced to leave the cinema.

But if you can bring yourself to stomach that, the 30 Days of Night is a really quite good – though a little short of brilliant – addition to the Vampire-movie canon.

Ross' Rating: 7/10

15 November 2007

Quick Update

Movie review! Huzzah!

I'm going to see 30 Days of Night later today, and so I'll probably post a review of that once I've concocted it. Then I'll stick up a proper situation update. Should be slightly longer than this one.

And probably won't end unexpect...

Eastern Promises Review

Don't you just hate it when you really want to like a film? When ever inch of it oozes quality and class, and yet somehow you still didn't come away saying 'wow, that was amazing!'. When every fibre of your brain wants you to love this fantastically constructed movie, except that one tiny part, right at the back. The one that's screaming 'there's something missing!'. Eastern Promises is one of those films. I came out of the cinema honestly bewildered as to what I thought about it. So here I am, trying to do my best to write a review. Here goes...

So let's begin at the beggining; story. London, the present day. A young, heavily pregnant girl wanders into a pharmacy and promptly collapses. She manages to survive just long enough for Anna - a Russian/English midwife, played by Naomi Watts - to deliver her baby before she dies from complications. In her purse, there's a diary, written entirely in Russian, and Anna sets out to get it translated. Meanwhile, Nikolai - played by Viggo Mortensen - is working his way up the ranks of the Russian mafia. Suddenly, their stories intertwine and become inexorably linked, heading towards what could become the downfall of the London Russian mafia.

And this is perhaps the short-falling. It's not that it's badly told, or overly confusing - though you do have to have the brain switch set firm to 'On' for the duration. It's just that the story feels...incomplete, somehow. Like...the middle section of a trilogy. Like there's something that your missing at the start, and something that still needs to be told come the end. It just is in dire need of some fleshing out that a 109 minute running time can't do justice to.

Because the thing is, beyond the story, everything is actually superb. The direction is immaculate, and Cronenberg has a way of making this grand tale of gangsters scheming and innocents caught up in their wake seem somehow intimate and small-scale. He also continues his run of incredibly detailed violence. An odd description, yes; but that's the only word that fits. This is violence that makes you wince when it happens, twitch with every slash of a razor blade and cringe with each crunch of bone.

There's one scene that'll totally change your perspective of asking for a hair-dryer, and another which will redfine your defintion of 'cinematic intensity'. The latter being an astonishingly visceral fight scene in a bath house. I won't give much more away, but suffice to say my legs were crossed, and were I a lesser man, I might've hid behind my fingers. But that's perhaps the genius of it, I couldn't wrench my eyes from the screen as it happen. It has a presence that almost demands that you watch, regardless of your constitution, and all credit for that lies with the director.

The other truly noteworthy things about the movie are two of the performances. First, Viggo Mortensen; soaring to new heights of electrifying intensity. He inhabits Nikolai. He is Nikolai. And that, too, is one of the reasons why the aforementioned fight scene demands your attention. He also delivers some of the most darkly funny lines I've ever heard with a creepy smirk that is incredibly unnerving. Then there's Vincent Cassel's sexually ambigous Kirill; Cassel delivering a character that is abhorent and charismatic in equal measures. He's odd, drunk and grinning for half the movie, and the other half he's a devious, scheming bastard with slightly a slightly disturbing light in his eyes. Naomi Watts - looking incredibly craggy and tired without her make-up - delivers the doe eyes and unbridled innocence that is required of the character, and Armin Mueller-Stahl lends his watery tones and shocking blue eyes to Kirill's father Semyon. They're all fascinating in their own ways.

It's just such a shame that the story just seems to stop. But perhaps it's meant to; perhaps it's more of a delving into the culture and situation, rather than a piece of story-telling. Then again, isn't cinema there to tell stories at us? Regardless, it's difficult to say whether or not I truly liked this film. It's sensationally crafted, immaculately framde and wonderfully acted. But it just feels like there should be more, and that is something of a letdown. Recommendable, but don't expect to come out feeling wholey satisfied.

Ross' Rating: 7...maybe 8. No...6. Definitely 7. 8...

10 November 2007

Halo 3: A Multiplayer Retrospective

So! Now that I've had internet for a good while, I've - you guessed it - been playing Halo 3 online rather a lot. Mostly because it cheers me up having not been able to get a job, but also because I have precious little else to do with my free time, and suffering from writer's block eliminates the ability to write my novel. *sigh*

Regardless, I've been playing Halo 3 online, and I have to say, my opinion of it still stands. It's brilliant; but less brilliant than I originally stated. The inherent problem is, that it seems that the multiplayer has weakened somewhat since the wonderfully balanced and brilliantly playable multiplayer of Halo 2. Things to point out:

1. The melee system needs tweaking. It really does. First off, smacking someone's feet as they jump over you seems to count as an assassination (instant kill for those of you not down with the lingo). That's just weird, and totally annoying, as it more or less renders jumping in combat completely useless. Second, there seems to be a rather arbitrary system in place that governs head-to-head melee-ing, in that it doesn't do a fixed amount of damage. It simply just seems to pick who has the most health, and then the other person looses. Which is, again, a bit silly.

2. They need to balance the weapons on maps more. Yes, there just seems to be an over-abundance of certain weapons, and a bizarre scarceness of others. The mauler - that hand-held shotgun thing that'd technically break the wrist of anyone using it - is everywhere, and yet the human pistol is sadly absent or ridiculously scarce on almost every level. And the problem with the mauler being everywhere? The thing is ridiculously over-powered. Blast, melee, repeat; plus it only takes 3 shots to kill someone at mid range. Anyways, for certain weapons - shotgun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle, spartan laser - scarceness is part of the point. But you'd think that there'd be loads of pistol lying around, wouldn't you? But hey, that's just me.

3. Achievements? Good. Improbable achievements? Not so good. Part of the point of having achievements, I thought, was that the situation required to fulfill them required skill to get. Thusly, the Gamerscore of any person would roughly reflect their relative skill with the game. But the five ones that I'm lacking in Halo 3 seem to rely solely on luck. Mongoose Mowdown? The damn thing isn't heavy enough to run people over! Steppin' Razor? If you can actually find three people to kill, given the size of the levels. The videos I've seen of people getting them seem to showcase how lucky you need to be to get them. But then again, I have awful luck when it comes to video games. Anyways.

4. Lack of variety in game types. Yes, Slayer, CTF and Assault are great. But there're SEVEN different types of creatable match, and each has almost infinitely customisable options. Also, whatever happened to good old CTF classic? You know, when there're two flags, and you've got to concentrate on both getting the enemy's flag and protecting your own? I loved that. And it's gone the way of the dodo, it seems.

5. Communication. It's suffered a downgrade. You used to be able to talk at people in ranked matches. Insults, and whatnot - some people didn't like it; I, for one, found it to make the game that much more entertaining. Now, in ranked matches you can only communicate with your team; and in free-for-all you can't communicate with anyone. Which kinda sucks.

Those're pretty much my only gripes; and they've appeared afresh above the single gripe I had with Halo 2, which was all but totally eliminated. Apart from that, I have a huge amount of fun playing. Especially with friends. Me and my mate Al have been teaming up reasonably regularly, and the teamwork we put together is nothing short of spectacular!

The maps are solid (despite the annoying weapon over-abundances/shortages); the gameplay is nicely paced and nicely skill reliant; and generally the players are a decent bunch - beyond that odd annoying kid whose parents bought him a Mature-rated game, and thinks he's better than everyone who's played the game ever, despite the 22-3 scoreline against him. So yeah, great fun game.

And that's it; all that's on my mind recently. Hopefully I'll have something vaguely more interesting to the non-gamer crowd next time; but such is life.


2 November 2007

I told you he could do it!

Frakkin' A, man! I got my internets! Tiscali finally pulled their fingers out of their collective arses and produced the necessary equipment. Pity it was the wrong equipment, but you gotta credit them for trying, right? So currently we're on a USB Modem being broadcasted to the world through my laptop, and the wireless router proper should be here in a few days.

But yes! Internets are finally mine! I can do stuff! Fun stuff! Like play Halo 3 online! (Which is, I must say, exactly as good as I thought it would be) And blog semi-regularly! (As opposed to quasi-regularly).

Anyways, I'm knackered at the moment, so this - the first post of November - is to be a rather short one.

I bid thee good eve!