The Gunman


Viewed – 26 March 2015  Cinema

Sean Penn isn’t the first person that comes to mind when you’re talking action movies … he’s more your method actor thesp with a few decent performances under his belt.  However with not a great deal to choose from at the cinema recently, this movie from the director of Taken (is that a trusted recommendation these days?) made for an intriguing prospect.

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Penn plays a special forces operative in the Congo on a top secret mission where he is involved in the assassination of a politician.  He subsequently goes into hiding following the hit and has to turn his back on his sultry girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca) and his best bud (Jarvier Bardem).  Eight year’s pass and he’s working as an aid worker in a  village when a hit squad recognise him and attempt to kill him.  Scared and worried who might have been talking, Penn goes about tracking down his former colleagues in search of answers.

Penn is on fine form and handles some slick, violent action with ease – this is certainly a side we don’t normally see from him and like his predecessor Liam Neeson he acquits himself with honours.  This surprises and shocks in equal measure with some brutal violence and an intense, nerve-wracking tone.  A clever brain-injury plot device aside, It lacks the emotional wallop of Taken and Penn doesn’t quite have Neeson’s charisma, but buffed up and breaking skulls a plenty, he still does a decent job.  Supporting cast especially Bardem as the grinning, shifty friend and a weary-looking but enjoyable Ray Winston add flavour and we even get Idris Elba as a shadowy Interpol agent.

It’s not about to spawn a franchise like Taken (thankfully) and probably won’t become a classic due to a sometimes confusing plot, but for fans of gritty, bone-crunching thrillers that don’t let up – this one is worth your time.

Verdict:  4 /5

Escape Plan


Viewed – 24 March 2015  Blu-ray

I haven’t been that interested in this 80s action hero revival that began with The Expendables movies (the first one was bad enough) as I felt there was too much of a nudge-nudge wink-wink attitude going on, that seemed to poke fun at the stars I had once adored.  However this prison-set actioner looked a bit more serious, and well, what’s not to be appealed by a Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up?

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Stallone plays a guy who specialises in testing the security of prisons, and has been able to break out of every prison he has been planted in.  However when approached by the CIA to test a top-secret facility, Stallone jumps at the chance to truly put his skills to the test.  However everything is not quite as it seems, and soon he’s inside a high-tech prison even he is unsure can be escaped from.  So he befriends fellow inmate Schwarzenegger who has an agenda of his own.

It’s a fairly complicated set up for what is basically a slightly more tongue-in-cheek ‘Escape from Alcatraz’.  We get a shady warden who seems utterly corrupt, a psychotic henchman who takes too much pleasure in beating up inmates (a snarling Vinnie Jones) and a kindly doctor who takes an interest in Stallone & Arnie’s plight (Sam Neil looking a tad bored).  The plot gets rather convoluted at times (such as the warden’s evil scheme, something to do with a banker?) – but we’re not here for meaningful characters or absorbing plot.  What we do get is plenty of violence, action and intrigue as we watch our heavy-weight heroes devise plan after plan to escape their surroundings.  Stallone struggles with the explain-to-the-viewer dialogue due to his almost incomprehensive drawl, and Arnie seems fairly tired and a shadow of his former self … until he gets a moment where he lays waste to a slew of bad guys with a high powered machine gun … complete with a knowing grin.

I had fun with this.  It’s clichéd, gets pretty silly at times, but retains an 80s vibe of daft plot, maximum action such movies cut their teeth on back in the day.  Entertaining nonsense that’s worth your time if you were ever a fan of these guys.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Order 1886 – impressions


the order 1886

Quick opinion on this heavily hyped by critically slated game – it isn’t as bad ass you may have heard.  I am enjoying the campaign which is set in Victorian London and follows a group of Knights of the Round Table as they battle rebels, political uprising and lycans … yes, that’s right – werewolves!  It’s a somewhat Jules Vern inspired steam-punk action setting not dissimilar to Bioshock and is presented beautifully in some of the most detailed and well designed visuals yet seen on the PS4.

At it’s heart, the game is a cover-based shooter not unlike Gears of War and the combat throughout, whilst a little repetitive is well done and visceral and is never boring.  The encounters with the lycans are a little less involving as it’s quite simplistic and mostly dependent on quick-time events, something of an Achilles heel for the game.  I personally don’t have a major problem with quick-time events, and especially in such a story driven game as this, they can make you feel still involved as you watch the cut scenes.  The big pull for me though is the setting and some of the interesting weapons, which all handle well and seem well designed and are easy to use.  Yet the game lacks some of the ‘trimmings’ of other games … exploring is limited to just enjoying the scenery, and finding notes or models lying around add detail to the setting but aren’t anything you’re going to need to collect for any reason.  So yes, it’s very linear and has no replay value.  There isn’t a multi-player mode either, but don’t see how that would work for this game.

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screenshot captured directly off the PS4

In this age of Dark Souls-style high difficulty games, The Order 1886 isn’t all that challenging – it has it’s moments (those annoying shot gunners) but this is mostly a focused story with some interesting characters, gorgeous visuals and a decent campaign.  Those arguing that 6-8 hours (depending on difficulty and your skill level) isn’t very long … I’ll agree it’s not amazing but it’s fairly average for a story driven experience these days (and last gen).  If I hadn’t been given it off a friend, would I pay close to £50 for it?  Probably not, considering the reviews – but I say trade in some games for it, borrow it or rent it, and you’ll come away satisfied.

The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part One


Viewed – 21 March 2015  Blu-ray

So we reach the third entry in the heavily hyped franchise adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ popular novels.  Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has defied the capital and angered President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and has had to go into hiding along with a group of rebels in the hope of gathering the population of Pan Am against it’s totalitarian government.  An uprising of monstrous proportions is on the horizon.  And so ended the last movie, Catching Fire, in the hope that now things were really going to kick off.

mockingjay

Well, that’s not quite the case here in the first part of the final book, as Katnis is given the task of becoming the Mocking Jay, the iconic face of the rebellion. This of course means she is an enemy of the capital and anyone who joins her cause are immediate targets.  What you get is over an hour of propaganda creating interviews, visiting districts, doing publicity videos, and not much action … until the final act that is.  It suffers the same slow, drawn-out build up of the last movie but without the exhilarating pay-off of an actual Hunger Games this time around to get all worked up about.  And don’t get me started about how many people die for no good reason in this movie (i.e. the hospital being bombed…).

Sound design and production values are both top notch but this doesn’t make up for such lacklustre plotting.  Lawrence does her best in a role that gives her very little to do other than look earnestly at destroyed landscapes and well, act a bit out of her depth.  Supporting turns from Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman don’t add a great deal to proceedings, and Woody Harrelson is woefully under-used.  Donald Sutherland is ok but again doesn’t get much time to really chew the scenery – the script clearly too interested in dragging out every little moment for as long as possible, just so there’s enough material left to make another movie.

A serious example of cash-in over quality this time, sadly.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Update


I’ve been a bit distracted lately.  Work has been hectic but now glad to be off for a few days and recharge.  There are a few movies on the agenda as well as games, and I will be watching The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part One over the weekend, so keep your eyes peeled for my review.  I have mixed feelings about this franchise but like it as well, and well, Jennifer Lawrence is very good in them.  Other than that I will be finally watching the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone team up Escape Plan during the week, so you’ll get my thoughts on that one also.  There is a possibility of a cinema visit towards the end of the week too, but unsure what I’ll be seeing.

I’ve been playing and enjoying The Order 1886 on PS4 and it has to be said, it’s a really nice looking game – they’ve captured Victorian(?) London beautifully and the story and characters seem quite good also.  The gameplay is nothing special but fairly well done – it’s mostly a cover based shooter like Gears Of War. Even the controversy of the game’s reliance on quick-time events hasn’t ruined the experience for me.

Also I’m thinking of doing more videos on YouTube, but unsure what that will be right now.  Keep an eye on my YouTube channel.

That’s all from me for now.