30 August 2007

The Bourne Ulitmatum Review

Whaddya think? 
Ah, the season of summer blockbusters. It's not every year that have a film come along in this period that is both incredibly intelligent and ridiculously exciting. Normally they're either one (Transformers, Spider-man 3), the other (Waitress, Knocked Up) or neither (Bratz...).

But the third outing in the Bourne trilogy is looking to - at least temporarily - change all that. It's both clever and pulse pounding, and is easily on of the best films of the year so far, let alone the best Bourne film or the best of the summer!

We all know the story by now - slighted US Government agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) seeks identity. Enjoys CQC and outsmarting opponents, as well as a predilection for running. But this time, they've taken it to the next level, the screenwriters - of which there are four - piling on the intrigue and tension. The film begins before the end of The Bourne Supremacy, with Bourne wounded and desperately trying to evade the Moscow police. Jump forward six weeks later, and he's just read an article about himself in the Guardian - and something called 'Blackbriar', which is apparently linked to the Treadstone project from the previous film. Intent on tracking down the journalist who wrote it, he once again gets himself caught up in the insipid dealings of the CIA.

It's perhaps a little confusing - and viewing of the first two films is recommended, preferably as close to your viewing of the third as possible. But the story is brilliantly conceived, and it ties off all of the loose ends beautifully and logically, but without ever losing a frenetic pace that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. There's a particularly memorable piece of scripting towards the end - suffice to say, it involves Bourne outwitting everyone who's after him, and it's wonderfully downplayed by both director and screenwriters.

Damon is still superb as Bourne; as he was in both the first and second - so elsewhere there's fantastic (and occasionally suprisingly) good turns from Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Paddy Considine and Joan Allen. Albert Finney crops up too, and his performance is suitable creepy and evil for his role. In fact, the cast is nearly flawless - even the slightly less verbal contribution from Edgar Ramirez.

But, once again, the true star of the show is Greengrass' direction. From the conspiracies in the CIA's HQ, to the incredible action sequences; his documentary-style hand-held cameras lend a sense of presence to the whole thing. It's almost like you're there, with Bourne, listening in on the conversations he's having, following him over the rooftops of Tangier as he evades police. Of particular note is a superb car-chase, which both mirrors the one in Supremacy, whilst adding a further veneer of realism to the whole thing. There's also a fantastically visceral roof-top chase that culminates with a brutal fist fight that is nail-bitingly tense.

However, as with any movie, it's not without it's problems - although the ones it does have are more or less instantly dismissable. First, if shaky-cameras aren't your thing - or even tend to make you feel nauseous- then the lack of visual focus in some of the scenes may annoy you somewhat. Also, the somewhat open ending may add to frustration. But these are minor, and are easily over-looked in light of the over-whelming number of fantastic qualities.

So, once again Bourne has proved that action films can have brains too. It's a fittingly brilliantly end to a brilliant trilogy.

Ross' Rating: 9/10

28 August 2007

Guns...lots of guns...

Whaddya think? 
Dear God, Britain's in a state at the moment, isn't she? I mean, we've had - what? - three killings in the last month? Fuck! We used to be such a friendly country...oh well. At least Big Gordie's being proactive. Unlike the Conservatives, I think this whole 'amnesty that's not an amnesty' is a very fine idea. No, it's not a long-term solution - but in the short term, I reckon it could help out loads. Girlfriends, parents and relatives of these gang-members will hand in the guns, and they'll go back to beating the shit out of each other with good old fists, crowbars and baseballs bats.

I even read a really disturbing interview in the Guardian - it was with a 14-year-old who was a member of a Liverpool gang. And he claimed not only to own a gun - or 'milli' - but to have fired it at someone twice. Also, in a rather amusing quote, he said that 'We don't do robbings. The other gang does robbings. We do graftings. That's stealing cars...' So, what? Stealing cars isn't robbery? Not if he says it's not, apparently. What a muppet!

On to slightly less political musings - sorry about not updating for two weeks. Dropping out of University is a huge hassle, it seems; but then, it had to be done. Anyways, it's all in motion...no alls I gotta do is get a job and get to living! Should be fun!

Seen a few movies, though only two of them are really review worthy, and I may just cook one or two up! So there was The Bourne Ultimatum, Knocked Up, Rush Hour 3, The Simpsons Movie...so yeah, loads. The only one's I'd really think about reviewing are Bourne and Knocked Up. Both were superb, in my honest opinion, though obviously for slightly different reasons.

What else? Oh! Started a new short story that could well pan out to a full length one. It's tentatively called 'Ex Valde Ira' - which is 'Out of Great Anger' in Latin; and it's basically about the end of the humanity (not the world, mind). Some kind of religious and philosophical musings will ensue, certainly; and I'm feeling pretty good about it!

That's it for now. My next post will probably be in a couple of days, and'll probably be a good old fashioned movie-review! So keep them eyes peeled for it!

Peace!

15 August 2007

Cookies!

Whaddya think? 
Ah-ha! I have caught your attention with the mention of tasty baked goods! But lo, there are none. Yes, I'm a cheating bastard, and I'm sorry...that's just the way it is.

So, I had a great weekend! It was filled with...sport! Bizarre, considering so far I've come off as a technophillic movie geek. But yes, I do enjoy the odd bit of sport. Rugby and football are my viewings of choice, and this weekend I was lucky enough to go see both!

First, on Saturday there was Scotland vs Ireland - just a pre-competition 'friendly'; but still important. I didn't exactly go in with high hopes - the last few times, Ireland have trounced us by huge margins. But if we could do at least a little better than we did those times, I'd be happy. Anyways, we came out and our pack (the forwards, or the big guys who are in most of the scrums, if you're not down with the lingo) looked absolutely huge! But, as is inevitable - size does not equate to winning...-ness, so I held my breath for the first kick.

And we looked really good! Not only that, but we won! 31-21! And all of Ireland's points were scored in a 20 minute period in the second half where we just seemed to lose cohesion (probably due to our scrum half Mike Blair coming off). But we won! I was dead happy!

Next was Man Utd vs Reading - me being a fan of the former. And that was slightly more disappointing. We seem to be unable to beat Reading, regardless of whether it's home or away, or of the state of our injuries etc. This is the only thing I'll ever thank Jose Mourinho for - 'Zey parked ze bus in front of ze goal and throw away ze key'. Every time. It's just a total lack of ambition - and it's representative of the inherent problems with football today. They're forgetting that this is a spectator sport. And if there's a single fan of either team that thought it was anything but boring, I'll find 'em and hit 'em.

Anyways, at least we got a single, solitary Premiership point from it. Certainly better than losing, I suppose.

And that's about it for now. Later, dudes!

8 August 2007

Oooooh yeaaaaah!

Whaddya think? 
That's right, two movie reviews within the space of a few days! Unprecedented, isn't it? Well, I'm very proud, as you probably have gathered!

Anyways! I finally got around to purchasing a few DVD's that I've been hankering after. Both the currently released Bourne films - that's The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, for those living in holes - although those were more for the fact that the final one is a-comin', hitting a cinema near me on the 17th! Can't wait, and my Da actually wants to go see it! Which is cool - I haven't been to the cinema with my Da since...*ponders for a moment*...Lord of the Rings: Return of the King! Bloody hell, that's ages!

So I watched The Bourne Identity this evening, and it was still as entertaining as ever. The car chase with the mini is still as inspired as ever - along with Ready Steady Go by Paul Oakenfold, which is now my ultimate car chase music! Although honestly, when Identity first came out, I was a little unimpressed - I just found it very slow. Then again, I was only 15 at the time, and my tastes have changed rather dramatically since then. Anyways, I enjoyed this sitting of it - so here's to the next one!

Also got around to watching a mini-series called The State Within - with Jason Isaacs as a British ambassador in the US as everything goes to pot. Only half-way through, but it's interesting stuff, and I have to say that this could potentially be the first time I've ever enjoyed a political thriller. Bring on part 2!

My Xbox power supply is still in limbo - Steve knows where it is at the moment; I certainly don't. But they are sending it free of charge - or at least, that's what they told me. So I can hardly blame them for sending it via We Get There In The End Courier Services. Hopefully I should be up and running soon, because I just bought a rather nifty little device - a VGA adaptor (or something like that). Basically, it's cheap HD - allowing you to hook your 360 up to a PC monitor and a set of speakers. So Gears of War in HD, here I come!

And that's about it for now. So, in the words of Captain Caveman:

CAPTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIN CAAAAAAAAAAAAAVEMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

6 August 2007

Die Hard 4.0 (aka Live Free or Die Hard) Review

Whaddya think? 
Die Hard 4.0 was always going to be an exercise in mistake management. For every one they made, they had to create a memorable 'Die Hard moment' to counter it. Unfortunately, they seemed to have forgotten exactly what Die Hard moment meant. Either that, or they completely misinterpreted it. Because Die Hard 4.0 goes on to make most of the mistakes that Die Hard 2 did - it loses the simplicity, and gains a whole lot of silliness.

This isn't to say that it's inherently bad. It's an entertaining summer blockbuster, and yes; Bruce Willis playing the role he was more or less born to play once again is fun, especially when he's bouncing off Justin Long's introverted-yet-fast-talking hacker. The conflict of personalities works rather well, and both seem to be having a great time. The villians are suitably menacing - Timothy Olyphant channelling his monotony into the slighted government official intent on bringing down the USA; and Maggie Q - whist hideously underused - is still silently malicious as the femme fatale. The supporting cast are a bit wishy-washy; neither awful nor particularly good - though of some note is Kevin Smith's brief stint as an uber-geek/hacker living in his mother's basement...sorry, 'command center'.

Unfortunately, Smith's role is part of the result of a grossly misjudged plot-line. Yes, it's modern. Yes, it's vaguely relevant. Yes, it's all very post-9/11. But it just doesn't feel like Die Hard - the threat isn't as palatable, as real as it should be. John McClane is supposed to be the everyman who's just having a very bad day. This just smacks more of a season of 24 compacted into 150 minutes. And this is yet another mistake made - John has once again turned into ye stereo-typical action hero - a Jack Bauer without CTU, if you will. It's not that his attitude has changed - he's still as reluctant and grouchy as ever; it's the things that he pulls off. In Die Hard 1 and 3, he was the every-man who got heroism thrust upon him - he did what we all might've done, given his training and situation; his methods were cack-handed, and whilst he is trying to save the hostages, he's got to survive the process! But in 4.0, as with 2, he's the tough guy destined for heroism - his ideas smack of rather careful planning, flukey set-ups and an almost willful disregard for his own safety. Again, it just doesn't feel like Die Hard.

Another mistake made is that the narrative sprawls just a little bit too much. The first three movies were rather tightly focused - there were scenes involving McClane, maybe a couple of scenes of background exposition and then those involving the terrorists, and McClane 'interacting' with them. Here we get those three, plus some bizarre, seemingly unrelated ones involving the Ministry of Defence - with Cliff Curtis and Zeljko Ivanek spouting off about homeland defence and some such. It's just far broader and less-focused than it should be - and this is probably no thanks to Mr. Bauer and his precious CTU. The final knife in the heart of part 4's Die Hard-ness is the fact that it's edited for a PG-13 audience - that means very little swearing (part of, I feel, John's trademark) and a cut-off catch-phrase that was particularly disappointing.

But don't get me wrong - there are many, many good things about the movie. Wiseman has a superb eye for action; and whilst not feeling very Die Hard, they are still entertaining and well thought out - a fist-fight in a freezing fan-room stands out to me as the most intense. The story is actually genuinely interesting, even if it is misplaced, and as I said earlier, the acting from the core ensemble is on the whole pretty decent. In fact, put John McClane on the list of great things about the movie - when he's not pulling of mind-boggling, eye popping feats of gunplay and general heroism, Willis does a fantastic job of bringing him back to the big screen.

So basically, if you're looking for an experience that maybe will stimulate the grey mushy thing in your skull, and definitely get your adrenaline glands a-pumping, whilst vaguely resembling some action flicks released 12-19 years ago, then this is definitely your bag. Just don't expect an 80's action throw-back of Rocky Balboa proportions - expect a competent modern action/thriller that'll just about keep you from nodding off.

Ross' Rating: 7/10

3 August 2007

Transformers Review

Whaddya think? 
Okay, I'll admit it - I'm a fan of Michael Bay movies. It's true! I love his style; I love the way he does over the top action; I love how you don't have to have your brain switched on to enjoy his films. So when I heard that he was making a live-action adaptation of Transformers, I was more than a little excited. Then, when I found out Steven Speilberg would be in the producing chair, five words ran through my mind: 'This is going to rock!'. However, I almost immediately reigned in my expectations - knowing full well that if I let them rocket skywards, I'd only come away disappointed. But after seeing it, I could've let them go as high as I liked - they'd've still been at the very least reached, if not surpassed.

The basic premise of the movie is that a life-giving device called the Allspark was chucked into space ages ago, and - suprise, suprise - crashes into earth. Close in its tracks is the leader of the evil Decepticons, Megatron - only he crashes into Antartica and gets frozen before he can start looking for it. Quite by chance, an explorer discovers him in the 1800s, and gets the location of the Allspark imprinted into his glasses (bear with me...). Skip to 2007; the explorers great-great-grandson Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is about to sell the glasses on eBay; only more of the Decepticons find out - thanks to the wonder that is the world wide web - and try to track him down. Turns out, his newly purchased car is in fact an Autobot - basically, the good guys - named Bumblebee, and he heralds the arrival of the rest of his kin. What ensues is a race to find the Allspark, and either destroy it, or use it to turn Earth's machines into an army of robots to wage war on the galaxy.

Okay, so it's not exactly the most cranial or brilliant of stories - but it works well enough to remain interesting throughout. It's just clever enough to not be instantly dismissed, and just dumb enough not to get in the way of the action.


The question that was on all our minds was, in fact, how cool do the robots look? And to answer - very cool. The special effects are, quite literally in my case, jaw-dropping; every Transformer has an enormous amount of detail put into them, and the transformations from vehicle to giant man-bot are incredibly convincing. Unlike the cartoons - where the Transformers seemed to be able to change size at will - here the smaller cars produce smaller robots, whereas a ruddy great tanks and such turn into enormous robots. It's this attention to detail - along with the seamless integration with both the actors and the environments - that makes the effects so ground-breaking.


There's also a real sense of fun that's threaded throughout the movie - from the way the Autobots have to hide from Sam's parents, to Sam himself; with Shia LaBeouf injecting him with a fantastically dry sense of humour. Then there's the wise-cracking squad of marines - headed by Josh Duhamel's Captain Lennox; providing the counter-Transformer infantry, and plenty of one-liners that ar almost trademark Michael Bay. The action sequences themselves are also well choreographed, from a shape-shifting dogfight over LA, to a subterranean Decipticon stalking our marines.

If there's one relatively poor thing about the movie, it's that it's clear this is a franchise spawner. It's Michael Bay's second shortest work to date - clocking in at around two hours and ten minutes - which suggests that he was told to 'save something for the sequels', in direct contrast to his 'everything but the kitchen sink' style of film-making. That and the closing speech from Optimus Prime, which all but screams 'there's gonna be a sequel, people!'. So be prepared to walk out a tiny bit unsatisfied!
So! If you're looking for a film that's light on brains and heavy on the entertainment, with kick-ass robots that turn into cars (though that may put you in a niche group...), this is more than certainly your cup'o'tea. Bring on the sequel!

Ross' Rating:
8/10

2 August 2007

The Joys of Steam

Whaddya think? 
That's right! I rather like Steam! A lot of people have criticised it for screwing around with Half-Life 2; but doesn't every great idea get a bit of stick at first? I mean, I got in the mood for playing some Counter-Strike: Source, and I scoured the house for my DVD to no avail. Then I read somewhere that - so long as you had registered with Steam (which I had) - you could download any game you had when you registered and install it free of charge.

What a fantastic idea! I was dead chuffed, and have had my bloodlust sated for the week!

Okay, so not every Blog post has to be devoid of shameless advertising - but I've always maintained that digital content delivery is the way forward - it's one of the reasons that the HD media war doesn't interest me too much. And I think Valve are doing a fantastic job in pioneering it for the video game industry!

What else, what else what else?

I like toast! Well, not every thought is a winner. But Scrubs has once again proved to me that it's never going to get old. I just finished watching series' 1-6 on DVD/online, and I have to say I laughed at every joke that I've laughed at in the past. I honestly don't believe there's a better comedy show on TV at the moment. Can't wait for season 7!

I'm also verging on finally getting around to seeing Transformers, and I'm planning on making that my very first blog-review, so keep those peepers peeled for that.

And that's it.

Good eve, all!