Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For


Viewed – 01 July 2015  Netflix

Brace yourselves, this might get kind of rant-like.  I was a fan of the original Robert Rodriguez / Frank Miller directed Sin City, a comic book adaptation that broke the mould and helped pioneer a new way of making movies.  Yet converting a gritty, noir-ish graphic novel to the screen was never going to be easy, especially due to Frank Miller’s distinctive monochrome art-style, and although the overly bleak tone prevented the movie for me being a stone cold classic, the end result was still an incredible achievement.

sincity2

This long awaited sequel however struggles almost from the start to reclaim that movie’s refreshing style or energy despite bolting together a series of plodding stories with characters that, apart from a few returning faces, fail to linger in the memory.  I was shocked to find Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green and Josh Brolin being cast, faces that I had immediately imagined as perfect for this dark, violent world; delivering performances that felt either clichéd or half-assed.  I mean Green has to get naked for the majority of her storyline to make much of an impact, and her femme-fatale character just seemed tiresome.  The same could also be said for Brolin, who looks the part and indeed plays the part, but is pretty much what Mickey Rourke’s character was all about in S C #1, and when you consider we still have Mickey Rourke’s Marv here (how…I mean, really – how?) his whole existence seems pointless.  Don’t get me started on the re-casting of Miho.

So the movie finally puts all it’s money on the slow burning revenge plot of young stripper Nancy (a still hot, feisty Jessica Alba) whose plot at least has some real drive, but by then it’s a strong case of too little, too late.

Rodriguez who has been off his game for a while now, does fill the movie with plenty of (white) blood, gore and some cool, if short lived action and the whole comic-book visual style still works a treat.  With better writing and more fire in it’s belly, this could have equalled … no, surpassed what came before.  But as it stands A Dame To Kill For was just poorly thought out and mostly forgettable.  A genuine shame.

Verdict:  2 /5

New bedroom TV


This week I thought it was high time I upgraded the TV in my bedroom, where I play my games and watch the majority of my TV shows and movies.  To complement the 42 inch Sony TV in my living room and the Onkyo 5.1 surround sound system, I have now got a 32” Sony for the bedroom, which I never thought possible.  My previous TV was a Samsung 26” which served me well, but as we all know nowadays, TV’s have a got ultra slim and with a very minimal frame, meaning that fitting a larger TV was suddenly possible.

Sony KDL-32W706B

Sony KDL-32W706B

LED, Smart TV

Full HD

I have my Sony Stereo Receiver hooked up to it, which was initially a concern as it is analogue and most modern TV’s don’t have analogue stereo out terminals anymore.  My solution?  A fairly reasonably-priced DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) that I can plug an optical cable from the TV into, then plug a stereo RCA cable into the other end and problem solved!  My Xbox One and PS4 both sound and look terrific on this TV and everything just looks so much bigger!

Anyone looking for a new TV, I can’t recommend the latest Sony models enough.  Their picture, features and aesthetic design (with a brushed high-end looking aluminium frame) make them complement any bedroom or living room.

Project Almanac


Viewed – 27 June 2015  Online rental

A gifted college student (Jonny Weston) stumbles upon his late father’s secret project in the basement of his house, and soon realises he has a time machine in his hands.  So with the help of his sister, his two friends and the hot girl, the group embark on a dangerous experiment.

Project Almanac

I have always loved time travel movies, harking back to my complete admiration of the Back to the Future series and other titles like Twelve Monkeys and The Terminator.  It’s a very intriguing concept every time, and this entry is no different.  Yet putting such technology in the hands of a bunch of kids is er, risky at best – but one’s a gifted science student, so that’s ok then …. you’d think.  You see for all the good intentions and the following of the rules (don’t change too much, be careful who you interact with) it’s soon all about going to parties they missed, acting carelessly and handling the life changing (world changing?) consequences afterwards.

Shot in that already tired hand-held found footage style, this was certainly fun and at times quite exciting.  Some of the effects when the gang jump through time are very good, and the little differences and alterations they cause are implemented well.  Sadly then the focus on these students and their annoying, rushed, arguing behaviour let’s down what is otherwise an often enjoyable little movie.  They are only marginally likeable and even the main character proves his own worst enemy.  Some of the time travel details are also difficult to get one’s head around, and the ending just confused me.

For a time bending, mind bending piece of entertainment, this remains worth a watch… but the concept has been done better, many times before.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Kingsman: The Secret Service


Viewed – 19 June 2015  Online rental

The spy spoof is nothing new, but placed in the hands of Matthew Vaughn who breathed a welcome injection of rebellious attitude to the costumed hero genre, with Kick-Ass and probably made one of the finest X-Men to date in First Class, I’d say we were in safe hands.  A troubled teenager who just so happens to be related to a former Kingsman secret agent gets the chance of a lifetime to join the top-secret British agency just as a megalomaniac internet billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) prepares to cause mass genocide.  Cue plenty of gadgets, tailored suits and before you can say Mark Hamill cameo it’s all action, intrigue and tongue planted firmly in cheek.

kingsman

Colin Firth, everyone’s favourite swarve English gent is perfectly cast as Galahad, the Kingsman’s top agent who single handily takes said troubled teenager Egsy (Taron Egerton) under his wing and helps him crawl out from under his Asbo lifestyle and housing estate surroundings to become someone capable of saving the world.  Jackson plays a little against type as an (annoyingly) lisping villain but is clearly having a ball – even if his character is a tad too cartoony for my liking.  The whole training stuff also gets rather predictable. Add to this a budget clearly spent on it’s decor, Michael Caine and designer-suits rather than decent effects (honestly, CGI blood, CGI explosions.  Who ever said that crap looked any good?).  But such shortcomings aside, director Vaughn pulls out all his nudge-nudge wink-wink tricks, bending and breaking genre conventions to throw in the odd surprise and a few slam-dunk gags (land of hope and glory?)..

It lacks the venom of Vaughn’s earlier Hit-Girl scene-stealing tour-de-force and clearly struggles with over ambition (the international locales can look noticeably fake, and action relies more on fancy camera trickery than genuine fight choreography).  Enthusiasm counts for a lot though, and the cast, crew and excellent soundtrack (a fight played to the tune of “Give It Up” by K.C. & The Sunshine Band?  Oh yes!) still make this worth a watch.  Bond has nothing to worry about though.

Verdict:  3 /5

PS4 @ E3 2015


e3logo

Well having watched what Microsoft were bringing to the table yesterday, I have recently finished watching rival Sony’s briefing at the hyped and famed convention in Los Angeles.  Riding high on strong sales figures that have been way ahead of Xbox One, Sony were seeming to be getting a little too smug … with last year’s e3 offering very little beyond Destiny hype and Bloodborne.  So with another twelve months since then, what have Sony delivered?

FFVIIThe vibe it seems this year was a lot of old, and a handful of new.  Answering hard-core gamer’s wish lists for dream games was firmly on the agenda as two much desired franchises got a mention and new games being announced that we never thought we’d see.  Yes namely Final Fantasy VII getting the remake treatment and finally there will be a Shenmue III.  Both niche projects it may seem, but exciting none the less.  Also surprisingly we got to finally see the much delayed, rumoured cancelled but highly anticipated The Last Guardian in action … and underwhelming graphics aside, looks as engrossing and as powerful as Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus that proceeded it.  The only thing missing from such wish-fulfilment was Half-Life 3.  Oh well, we can’t have everything it seems.

Horizon

Thankfully then Sony did have a few new titles up their sleeve, most notably Killzone Creator Guerrilla’s very promising looking Horizon: Zero Dawn – which seems like a post-apocalyptic transformers, with tribes people up against mechanised dinosaurs in a somewhat Monster Hunter vein.    Yet Media Molecule’s game making painting-thing Dreams looked pretty, technically interesting but well, didn’t Project Spark do all this a while back?  Then we come to Street Fighter V … which looked, dare I say it a step-back from the visual cartoon beauty of SF IV…  I was expecting to be blown away by a franchise that has been close to my heart for decades, and it looked old and out-dated.

Adobe Photoshop PDFThankfully then it was down to some old faces from last year and a few multi-platform titles to liven up the show with a newly announced Hitman – always a yay from me, a very Advanced Warfare looking Black Ops III and erm, no in game footage and just a cut scene for Assassin Creed Syndicate?  Bizarre.  Although Star Wars: Battlefront looked amazing.  So naturally Sony closed the show with what was easily their best chance for a win – Uncharted 4: A Thieves End – and despite what I’d seen over at the Xbox briefing – this was the killer game of the show for me.

Sony also had Project Morpheus which they demo’d to interesting results and an extended look at No Man’s Sky, the ambitious space travelling simulation that wowed everyone a couple of year’s back.  Still no release date on that one though.

Sony-Playstation-4

Sony did a good job but felt like beyond Uncharted and Horizon, were trapped on the promises offered up in the past and not kept.  Pinning their hype on a former PS3 game that was rumoured dead (The Last Guardian) and giving us games only the hard-core care about anymore (FFVII and Shenmue) seemed a gamble.

It didn’t excite me as much as what the Xbox briefing did … no real welcome surprises and a lack of new IPs.  We’ll see.  Either way PS4 has little to worry about, but for me Microsoft just pipped them this year.