The Amazing Spider-Man 2


Viewed – 13 September 2014  DVD

The last movie, rebooting a franchise that had reached a dead-end after the lacklustre Spider-Man 3, was a decent if somewhat uninspiring outing for the web crawler, helped it has to be said by solid casting and some good action.  This time around Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is still juggling his on/off relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), trying to hold down a job as a photographer (er, only hinted at) and his responsibilities as a super-hero.  However the mystery behind his parent’s disappearance still looms and a new enemy in the shape of an ignored, put-upon scientist (Jamie Foxx) turned electricity consumed super-villain ‘electro’ arrives on the scene.

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Plenty going on in this sequel.  Again Garfield is good as Parker/Spider-Man although his snively / arrogant double-act grates sometimes.  Stone on the other hand is again perfect, even if she doesn’t get much more to do than threaten to run away to England.  Sally Field as Aunt May seems to have stepped up her presence however in the absence of Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben, and we also get Harry Osborne (a diverting Dane DeHaan), former best friend turned megalomaniac beneficiary of Oscorp.  As always for this kind of thing the sequel seems over-complicated but makes for some great action and superb effects work (apart from some dubious swinging through New York bits that looked better in 2001).  Foxx is good as Electro even if his character is quite the cliché, but overall there was a somewhat childish tone with too many moments of poking fun at our hero (the fireman’s helmet bit?).

It’s hard not to wish this had turned out differently … towards the end it really hit it’s stride, offering up some surprises as well as the (albeit predictable) character-ark of Harry Osborne.  Yet this was still good entertainment, despite suffering from the usual sequel / trilogy trappings.  Roll on The Amazing Spider-Man 3 then.

Verdict:  3 /5

Destiny impressions


Well I have had a few days with the most hyped game this year, namely Bungie’s much anticipated open world shooter / MMORPG hybrid ‘Destiny’.  Now I won’t review the game as such, as I am still touching the surface, but my experience playing this game has been fairly positive so far.  I think the fact you are always around other players, playing their own missions and if you want you can just join in, or instead go about your own business is fairly revolutionary for a console game.  Yes it has been done before, most notably in Sega’s Phantasy Star Online, which I played briefly   Yet for the most part MMORPGs have been the stalwart of PC gaming … but with this online-focused generation, it’s becoming the norm more and more in many new games … see the forthcoming The Division.

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As a game it blends aspects of space RPG Mass Effect, as in your character customization and the hub world of The Tower … but on missions it is more like Halo, with a large influence it seems from Borderlands.  For me the general shooting is excellent.  Upgrading weapons, adding to your character, meeting other players and discovering different locations and enemies makes for a great deal of immersive fun.  I wouldn’t say it’s a game I play for the story – it’s vague at best but I am only just starting with that … I play it for the feel, the gorgeous vistas, the satisfying gunplay and the general slickness of it all.  As with Phantasy Star it feels a little repetitive, basically going on a variety of horde-style encounters, surviving until they’re all dead, or your ‘ghost’ scans something and an exit opens up.  Your ghost is an a.i. companion that generally leads the way and comments during the story-based missions, but also comes in handy for scanning the environments for interesting locations or summoning your hover-bike which is another cool aspect and a welcome mode of transport considering the often immense environments.

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Outside of the main game there is also The Crucible, a more traditional multiplayer mode not unlike Halo or Call of Duty but I haven’t played that mode yet.  Probably dip into it later.  I have the Xbox One version of the game and am very impressed with it.  It feels like one of the smoothest games I have played with a rock steady 30fps and a gorgeous 1080p full HD resolution, putting it on pretty-much equal parity with the PS4 version (yes, I’ve read up on that to confirm).  I think anyone who enjoys social-based games or even Halo or decent first person shooters, Destiny is worth a go.  It will only grown in time with Bungie’s ambitious plans for the game, and can see the initial universe expanding to a larger selection of planets … meaning more to explore and more enemies to send back to their makers … most likely at an additional cost.

The game is out on both Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – so what you waiting for?

Ramblings…


Well it’s a bit of a lazy Sunday so thought I’d write something on here.  This past year has had a few ups and downs … personally I’ve gone through some depression.  However I think I have overcome most of it, and looking to a future where such a thing isn’t at the forefront of my thoughts (at least not as much).  I’m concentrating on more positive things, like friends, family and my job, hobbies etc … things that make me happy.  I suppose it’s all about appreciating the good things in life, rather than focusing on what’s missing from it.

In the coming months, as far as this blog is concerned, I have some stuff to look forward to.  On the gaming front Destiny is just around the corner … preloaded it on my Xbox One last week, and well it’s been agonizing waiting for it to unlock but it will finally be available on Tuesday.  I’ll report back on this long awaited, much anticipated game next week.  Also got Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare pre-ordered, along with Sunset Overdrive.  Both look amazing.

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The Netflix challenge has hit the skids a bit, as I was feeling like it was less about movies I wanted to see, and more about doing the challenge, so not sure if I will go back to it.  An interesting ‘experiment’ none the less.    Some movie’s on the horizon include reviews of the Blu-ray release of Spirited Away, one of my favourite Studio Ghibli movies … add to that Hayao Myazaki’s swansong The Wind Rises.  I also have the 15th Anniversary of The Green Mile pre-ordered, so will finally give my opinion on this much loved prison drama. 

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Towards the end of the year, it’s possible I may own a PS4.  Can see that happening.

In other news:  I have been closely following the news on my favourite band Garbage and looking forward to what they have planned for next year.  They intend to re-release their debut album to mark it’s 20th anniversary, as well as their sixth studio album that they have been working on for the past year or so.  Also a tour has been hinted at and if they make it back to the UK I have, to name one of their best tunes, made a ‘vow’ to see them this time around.  Exciting times to be into this band who seem to really be in their element these days.

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Well enough from me for the time being.  Please remember to check back often for movie reviews and general ramblings and I’ll make sure to keep the content coming.  I appreciate all my visitors and subscribers, those that press ‘like’ or offer their comments etc.  Makes this little blog really mean a lot to me.

Craig.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Viewed – 05 September 2014  Blu-ray

I thought the last Captain America movie was the better of the several origin tales leading up to Marvel Avengers Assemble.  The World War II setting, the fact Steve Rogers goes from a wimpy rookie to a super soldier (and the special effect used to fool us…) as well as a great turn from Hugo Weaving as Red Skull all made for a top class piece of entertainment.  So you ask, where to go now ol’ cap is in the modern world?  Well how about an attack on s.h.i.e.l.d and a conspiracy where the agency he trusted suddenly turns on him?

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Scarlett Johansson is here as the sultry, bad-ass Black Widow and well, kicks all sorts of ass, despite a dodgy fake tan.  Oh and this time we get a lot more screen time with Samuel L. Jackson’s cool-as-ice Nick Fury, who gets his own actions scenes for a change.  Villainy is in the form of The Winter Soldier, a tough as nails enemy with a metal arm (!) who is every bit the match for Chris Evans’ increasingly llikeable Captain.  What follows are a series of bombastic encounters, a stand-out showdown on a freeway, very impressive effects, surprisingly vicious hand-to-hand combat (with some martial arts thrown in), and a keep you guessing plot.  Robert Redford plays one of the senior guys of s.h.i.e.l.d. but is looking his age, and Anthony Mackie is pretty cool as Falcon, even if he seems to come out of nowhere.

As a follow-up this packed quite punch in the action stakes and gave us some good character development with Captain America facing his past, and Nick Fury questioning his allegiance.  Chris Evans is still perfect and handles the action well, as does Johansson (prrr…).  A quality sequel, and made me thirsty for the next Avengers – surprising considering all this comic book stuff was starting to get a bit tired.

Verdict:  4 /5

Killers


Viewed – 02 September 2014  Blu-ray

Ok, I’ll admit I like shock-cinema foreign thrillers such as Old Boy & I Saw The Devil, not just because they are usually very violent with often taboo subject-matter, but also because they’re usually directed with no end of skill and style.  This is no exception.  A serial killer is going about picking up prostitutes, then torturing and killing them, whilst filming them on camera.  He then uploads the footage to an internet website where it attracts the attention of a lonely, troubled reporter whose career and marriage have both failed.  When the reporter is mugged one night, his interest in the videos takes over and he films the two men he murders in self-defence, and proceeds to upload the footage onto the website.  This then sparks the interest of the serial killer, who starts to goad the reporter into doing further killings.

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Directed by The Mo Brothers, this unflinching character study may not be pleasant viewing, and involves some pretty graphic scenes (the attack on the pimp for example) but excels at showing two complex personalities, delivered with powerful performances from the leads.  The serial killer’s inner demons surrounding the death of his sister, his inability to comfortably date the nice girl from the florists … and the reporter’s struggle to bond with his own daughter whilst hoping to reconcile his relationship with his ex … are both very well observed.  This was also a clever commentary on modern society’s obsession with documenting and filming even the horriblest of situations (who can forget how many filmed the World Trade Centre attacks?).  Also at times how we saw something from the killer’s point of view, only for it to have subtle differences when seen through someone else’s eyes was very clever.

Deviations into English language were a bit odd (the two guys seem to resort to English when speaking via webcam), and supporting characters are under-developed.  It may also explore a well-worn subject … but offered up a fresh perspective and some genuine surprises.  Not for everyone, but fans of hard-hitting thrillers with plenty to leave you thinking – this is one to check out.

Verdict:  4 /5