Xbox One – what next?


Xbox One Controller

I have had my XBOX One for a few months now and have been quite happy with it.  Not so happy have I been with all the negative press Microsoft and it’s new machine have been getting.  Firstly I am puzzled by this emphasis on 1080p / 60fps that the PS4 has been touting in many of it’s games.  What really is the big deal?  How many gamers out there play their games on 50 inch televisions?  Because that or close to that size is how you’ll notice much difference from 720p to 1080p … and having sat and played Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and Titanfall, both games that are running below full HD resolution on the Xbox One … I can confirm that these are ‘superb’ looking titles that more than satisfy me even as a self-confessed graphics whore. 

I like the user interface, have enjoyed the Kinect even if I feel it’s a little under-used (although XBOX record that is awesome, as is pausing Netflix).  The controller is also great and feels great and is a joy to use.  Yet I do get the feeling that Microsoft rushed out their machine in wake of the PS4’s announcement – really, it so looked like that.  This can be confirmed with the wealth of updates to the console to add features that a little longer development time would have put in place from day one.  Yes the machine isn’t as powerful as the Sony platform and that’s unlikely to change even with the recent announcement of DirectX 12 for the machine, which will reportedly aid development, something which developers have struggled with, resulting in games running with slightly less bells & whistles (see above…).

quantum_break

But what can Microsoft do about this, to win back fans to their console brand who may be looking to the PS4 more favourably?  In a word – games.  This year’s forthcoming E3 promises to have a big show from Microsoft and Xbox, and I really hope there are some big announcements – but what we really need, and quickly is not yet seen, in-game footage of announced exclusive such as Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive and Halo 5 … come on Microsoft, sell your system by doing what you did with the 360 – throwing down our throats big names, quality games that the public can’t ignore – regardless of what is coming to PS4.  You have the money, you have the ability … just f*****g do it already!

Carrie


Viewed – 15 April 2014  online rental

It’s difficult to really say what we as movie lovers actually want from a remake.  In my opinion they have usually only worked when the source material is ropey or lacking in the first place, with some exceptions of course.  So now we come to what was possibly one of my most dreaded rehashes.  First mistake – remake a bonafide classic of the genre, Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel.  Second mistake – the casting of pretty starlet Chloe Grace Moretz, something I have ranted about here on this very blog.

Carrie

But brushing such fears aside, what is it actually like?  Well let’s back track a little and tell you what we have here.  Moretz plays lonely, bullied high school kid Carrie White, who lives in the shadow of her god-fearing, domineering mother (Julianne Moore) and pretty much tries to go unnoticed … until that is she gets her period in the school showers and becomes a cruel laughing stock to everyone who witnesses it.  But hey, Prom Night is on the horizon, so things can only get better … right?

Let’s just say straight away, I was wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz.  She is actually surprisingly convincing as the outcast Carrie, something I didn’t see coming and hey I’ll admit when I am wrong.  She portrays the iconic role previously played by Sissy Spacek very well indeed, and even seems to have grown somewhat as an actress in the process.  The second slam dunk is Julianne Moore – absolutely perfect as Carrie’s demented bible-quoting mother, and does the impossible by equalling the performance of the excellent Piper Laurie – possibly the true highlight of the original.  The rest of the cast aren’t quite so interesting; we get the token popular girl who grows a conscience, the bully who basically is like every other bitch in such movies, and the do-gooder gym teacher … all not adding much.  Director Kimberly Pierce however is clearly well-traversed in De Palma’s movie and this is basically a very close never-really-daring-to-try-anything-new sort of remake – although when the original pretty much hit all the right notes, that can be (mostly) forgiven.

Some bits are drawn out (the car sequence…), there’s too much CGI and the final prom bit fails to go for the jugular … oh and sorry Chloe you don’t look scary covered in blood.  Overall though this is a hell of a lot better than I could have expected.  Recommended.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Dirty Pretty Things


Viewed – 13 April 2014  Netflix Alphabet Challenge

Audrey Tautou shot to fame following her quirky, adorable turn in the sublime Amelie and has since gone onto critical acclaim in many movies, even if much of her output has passed me by.  Shame as after watching this intriguing and thought-provoking drama, she’s remains one of the more charming foreign exports.  This follows the story of African illegal immigrant Okwe, who juggles several jobs, never sleeps and basically just tries to be a good guy in a difficult world.  Whilst friends with a maid at a hotel where he works (Tautou) … his good nature gets the better of him after discovering a human heart flushed down a lavatory(!), causing him to investigate it’s origin…

dirtyprettythingspic

Set in London and shedding light on the struggles of the asylum seeker and immigrant communities as well as the criminal underground – this was certainly eye-opening.  Main star Chiwetel Ejiofor proves a very watchable lead and his complexity and urge to do the right thing made for an interesting, well rounded character.  Tautou’s more fragile, innocent maid was less complex but just as interesting, as was Okwe‘s Chinese mortuary worker friend and the colourful characters at the various jobs he worked.  Director Stephen Frears may have cut his teeth on bigger projects than this, namely Dangerous Liaisons and Mary Reilly but although simpler in concept, this proved very absorbing and rather educational. 

Although for it’s subject I felt it needed a bit more danger (such criminal activity going on, and the only threat is deportation?) this makes up for such shortcomings with good characters and a more than capable cast.

Worth a look.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Comes Bright Day


Viewed – 11 April 2014  Netflix Alphabet Challenge

Oh I’m liking this.  The idea behind this challenge was to make more use of my Netflix subscription, and perhaps discover some great movies I may have not otherwise checked out.  Telling the tale of Sam, a young but ambitious guy working at a hotel who decides he’s going to ask out the pretty assistant at a near by jewellers.  Only problem is, whilst there the shop gets attacked by a duo of thieves, and soon a hostage situation takes place.

comes-a-bright-day

Set in London and with some stylish but unobtrusive photography, a soundtrack that mixes classical with jazz, and a keep you guessing plot, I was totally gripped throughout.  Well acted and with surprising depth, this stars seasoned Brit actor Timothy Spall as the stuffy but quickly lovable jewellery store owner and Trainspotting’s Kevin McKidd as the main thief, who struggles with inner demons and an unfortunate stutter.  Relative newcomer Craig Roberts however carries the movie superbly, sort of an unconventional hero and proves one to watch for sure … perfectly awkward and smart.  The same can also be said for the delectable Imogen Poots, who’s beauty and charm shines (and boy can she tell a story…). 

It has moments of violence but never goes too far, is sometimes darkly comical and makes you actually care about (almost) every character – even the lad who works at the deli down the street.  That’s pretty rare.

An unexpected treat and highly recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5