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Friday, 24 December 2010

Advent Calendar Day Twenty-Four: Feature Reveal 4

Believe me, there are going to be a heck of a lot of great entertainment releases next year, and believe me also when I say that you won't have enough cash to play or watch all of them. In which case, every month I'm going to find the 'Most Anticipated' game, film and TV programme, then at the end investigate the 'Best Release' of the month for each category. Admittedly with 12 months to a year, it's unlikely you will want to buy 12 games and see all 12 films, but hopefully the advice will help if you feel like getting a new video game or going to the cinema. If I've ever missed out what you think is the Most Anticipated/Best Release of the month, feel free to comment on an article and I'll take a look at the product. So, Christmas is just around the corner, thus tomorrow expect the final feature reveal and loads of brand new reviews of every form of entertainment imaginable...but above all that, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Alpha Protocol Review (5/10)

Released in April, Alpha Protocol for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 promised innovative combat and deep RPG elements, but instead falls flat on its face as it tries to please every type of gamer, mixing accessible menus with complex puzzles awkwardly from the outset such that it will struggle to feel like anything other than a wasted opportunity to most. The plot is nothing to get excited about, dealing with the twisting missions of a secret agent that can end in different ways depending on the player's decisions, but not in a way substantial enough to make a real impact. The graphics are a major drawback, screaming of a lacking budget by SEGA (clearly unconfident in the game's success, and with good reason) through jagged edges and horrid textures, meanwhile the game-play is no better as the shooting mechanics aren't precise and close combat feels like a rushed inclusion. Overall, Alpha Protocol is a major let-down for video gaming in 2010, and certainly doesn't warrant a sequel like Mass Effect did (hence why it got TWO!).

Top 5 Surprises Of 2010

Okay, so there were some major disappointments in entertainment this year, but on a good few occasions we were surprised in a good way. Here are my top 5 examples of such in 2010:
5. MARIO ALL-STARS: As Nintendo's iconic plumber hit his 25th anniversary, the gaming company released this compliation of the original 4 Super Mario Bros games- boy, has their impact not diminished at all. If you get time, get this bargain of a set for Wii.
4. ASSASSIN'S CREED- BROTHERHOOD: Every fan of the Assassin's Creed franchise worried that a mere 12-month gap between instalments would send it the same way as Call of Duty (mediocre, predictable), yet Brotherhood shook off suspicions by providing the most refined game-play so far, a decent (if forgettable) plot and ace multi-player!
3. SHERLOCK: Benedict Cumberbatch's version of Arthur Conan Doyle's famed detective was a fresh take that no one saw coming, and the scale of the cliff-hanger found at the end of the first series on BBC One ensured that next autumn seems too far away.
2. HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS- PART ONE: Given that this flick had over two hours to deal with the 'less-eventful' half of Deathly Hallows, it came as a massive shock that it was the best Potter film yet, and actually ramped up the pressure for July 2011's Part Two to deliver!
1. DOCTOR WHO- THE PANDORICA OPENS: This opening part to the season finale ended on the most devilish of twists- the enemies of the Doctor believed him to have caused the cracks in the universe, so fashioned the Pandorica not for a creature to escape from but for the Time Lord to be trapped in to save the cosmos. It's hard to convey just how strange and downright disturbing the scene of the Doctor's imprisonment was, but sufficed to say it was one of the best moments on the show in quite a while!

Advent Calendar Day Twenty-Three: Feature Reveal 3

These days, trailers are the make-or-break point for movies, gaining more film-goers by showing the major highpoints of the flick. What rarely gets looked at is how these previews compare to each other, so next year I'm going to change that! The third feature is called "Trailer Showdown", and will start in January as I compare two or three trailers each month in terms of plot details, in-trailer narrative and the general attraction raised towards the intended movie. I'll provide the links to each trailer so you can decide for yourself- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Thor and Transformers: Dark of the Moon will be the first to undergo the showdown, so check back to see my verdict on the best teaser!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader Review (4.5/5)

Last time The Chronicles of Narnia hit our screens, fans were left with a sour taste in their mouths as Prince Caspian spent two hours indulging in long battles and repetitive quests to find Aslan. Two years later, we get The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, an altogether more well-rounded tale that unlike its predecessors wastes no time in getting the Pensieve children back to Narnia for another fantasy adventure. Will Poulter joins the cast as cousin Eustace Scrubb after his enjoyable debut earlier this year in Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang, starting out as the same, spoilt brat Poulter seems to portray so effortlessly (wink wink, nudge nudge) and in much the same vein turning out to be a strong, likeable kid who could easily lead the franchise now given that it seems the Pensieves might depart before the next instalment. Aslan, Peter and Susan are reduced to mere cameos for the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, yet the cast- now including Ben Barnes on much better form as Caspian and Simon Pegg in a surprisingly deeper role than many of his other human characters- manage to compensate for the losses exceedingly. Above it all, though, is a finer, intricately layered plot by C.S Lewis of temptation, religion and most importantly growing-up, a transition often left untouched by kids' films, but one that is used for the better here. I could go on about the great 3-D effects, the much improved CGI and Aslan turning out to be some sort of God (just you wait...), but all you need to know is that Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a brilliant diversion from past entries, and despite feeling occasionally episodic instead of a fully-fledged movie, it's the best entry yet and a great fantasy romp to close 2010!

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Review (7/10)

"How often will you die?" It's a question that's pretty much asked to you from the outset of Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, and while casual gamers might shrug it off without a thought, make no mistake that it's not joking: Dragon Rising is hard
, more so than any other shooter I've seen in a long time. Instead of a regenerating health bar that allows players time to get behind cover and regain life, Flashpoint will have your on-screen soldier gunned down in a matter of seconds should you make the wrong decision, too fast, too slow, no matter what the cause- just like in real life. For some hardened veterans of the genre and those who complain against war shooters, this could actually be seen as a good way of showing the sheer brutality of war to teens, but for the majority of players this difficulty present even on the 'easiest' setting will seem pretty unfair. The almost total lack of a plot doesn't help, the instruction manual telling you more about the campaign than the actual game does. So why does Flashpoint score so highly? For all its faults, I can't discredit this game for being too difficult for many as if anything that's a welcome refresher from being able to complete most shooters in a matter of hours and will ensure the maximum sense of achievement come game's end. Plus there's a multi-player mode where the realism takes on a whole new meaning of 'fun', and still gets extensive use even a year on from release. In short, want an unforgiving, unrelenting challenge that pays full tribute to the hardships our men face on the battlefield? Then get Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, and be prepared to die- a lot.

Brutal Legend Review (8.5/10)

Not many games boast the profound sense of humour evident in Brutal Legend, and this unique strength is essentially what brings the 2009 brawler away from becoming a repetitive, predictable title. Oh, and Jack Black of course. Yep, the star of some truly great flicks like School of Rock (4.5/5) and Kung Fu Panda (4/5) plays lead protagonist Eddie Riggs in a fantastical world plagued by demons who threaten to take the heavy out of metal. The plot doesn't feel too dissimilar to Black's recent film Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny (2.5/5), albeit handled much better and making more sense as a video game. Brutal Legend finds a solid mixture of game-play ranging from blatant beat-em-up to somewhat shallow role-play sections to hilarious vehicular missions, with no element seeming too out of place, though consequently it's easy to think that no area of the game gets enough attention to make it truly substantial. Thank goodness, then, that the polish applied is of such a high quality, such that the menus, the in-game visuals and even simple instructions flow together seamlessly to create an authentic, mature musical experience. Make no mistake, what Brutal Legend occasionally lacks in staying focused on one type of game-play is made up for by the fact that it has style unlike any other title in any of its genres, and retailing for under £10 in most stores makes it one of the biggest bargains you'll likely find for some time!

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: DW Death Riders/Heart of Stone Review

With the long break inbetween each series of Doctor Who, it's up to BBC Books to bridge the gap with new adventures for the Doctor, Amy and Rory, and in no better way can they do this than with the new range of 2-in-1 novels starting in February with Death Riders/Heart of Stone. I've read this 400-page package, and can confirm it captures the sci-fi brilliantly in its two unique stories. Death Riders takes the TARDIS to an intergalactic theme park, where the time travellers have to save visitors from a hidden creature lurking beneath the new 'Death Ride'. It's a standard-Who premise, but author Justin Richards uses this to his advantage by creating a tale very similar to a television episode, building in scale throughout and eventually to an epic climax which will have readers on the edge of their seats! Meanwhile Heart of Stone is a more subtle piece by Trevor Baxendale, set in a rural area of British countryside as the Doctor deals with a monster made of moon rock terrorising a small farm. Once again, Baxendale uses this peaceful setting to suit his adventure, adding real depth to each of the small group of characters the Time Lord meets so that when the TARDIS departs readers will be sad to leave this realistic family behind. Both authors manage successfully to veer away from continuity issues, not even trying to come up with reasons why the Doctor takes Amy and Rory to these locations and only fitting in the series time-line by mentioning that the Ponds are married and on their honeymoon. This approach works for the better, pretty much sticking to the mantra "It's a time and space machine, the crew can go anywhere they want!", and I hope the next books in the range keep to this. Overall, Doctor Who: Death Riders/Heart of Stone is an awesome start to the new range of 2-in-1 novels, and when it arrives on the 3rd of February I'd encourage fans to get this book that feels like a novelised continuation of the Doctor's adventures before he returns to screens next Spring! For a look at this and many other great Doctor Who books, check out www.doctorwhochildrensbooks.co.uk!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Advent Calendar Day Twenty-Two: Feature Reveal 2

Another feature that will hit the blog next year is a very different one to the "Book Vs Film" piece I revealed yesterday. Now we're into a new decade, it's high time we looked back at everything in entertainment that has come before, thus this feature will be called "Classics". As you can see, one of the first releases I intend to revisit will be Avatar- many said it was a masterpiece, I gave it 5/5 upon my first viewing (though my enthusiasm for it waned somewhat on repeat viewings), so I'm going to rewatch it and see whether, one year on, it still deserves that score. But that's not all by a long shot: if you can think of an entertainment release that stunned when you first saw/read/played it but want to know my opinion in 2011, just send me the name (and author/developer for books/games) and I'll get to it right here as fast as possible! Look out for the first in the "Classics" range in late January 2011!

Top 5 Releases You Don't Want This Christmas

Remember that time you looked under the Christmas tree to find a game-shaped present, opened it and found Shadow The Hedgehog (4/10), put it in your PS2 eagerly having played other Sonic games and then thought "some people are just sick"? Sometimes your parents are going to get it wrong or make stupid assumptions, and inspired by GamesRadar's hilarious feature, I've found the items you DO NOT want under the tree:
5. THE EXPENDABLES- I can picture it now: your mum knows you're into Sylvester Stallone and/or Bruce Willis flicks, so sees them both on the cover of the DVD for this absolutely soulless movie and thinks "I'll be the best Mum ever for finding this!". Truth is she won't, and by the time this is done rotating in your DVD drive the entire living room will be silent (or loud to drown it out) with boredom.
4. MEDAL OF HONOUR- So your folks couldn't afford Call of Duty: Black Ops (it happens), and went for the cheaper, likely half-price option...bad move. Medal of Honour felt like a major stop-gap modern shooter, and did nothing unseen before, and will more than likely make you want to stop playing with its atrocious graphics.
3. ANNUALS- There's a good chance if you're reading this that you hate annuals anyway, but there's just as much of a chance that your misguided grannies will see the book that suits your favourite TV show and pick it up at a cheap price. Trouble is, the simplistic (nay patronising) content will mean it gets chucked- fast.
2. JAMES BOND: BLOOD STONE- Remember the new Bond film that just came out where Daniel Craig travelled across the world for a series of repetitive shootouts? Of course you don't, 'cause that would be the worst 007 flick ever (although Quantum of Solace came damn close). Blood Stone is a game which simply reeks of mediocrity, and one which will quickly lose its appeal once you've got over "Wow, I'm James Bond!"
1. DOCTOR WHO: RETURN TO EARTH- Disregard my previous 6/10 review in this case- even if you are a hardcore fan like myself, this horrifically rubbish Nintendo Wii game will be very hard to stomach on December 25th. Honestly, though the cover does a decent job of masking the broken game-play and 1990s visuals, once you put this inside your console you'll feel like you're being repeatedly smacked across the face.

Smallville Season 3 Retrospective- Part 1

As Season 2 of Smallville tried to advance the Warner Brothers show past its tired 'Monster of the Week' format, so to does Season 3 by attempting a longer, cohesive narrative that stretches the length of the run instead of simply 22 episodes each with wildly different dilemmas. It's a risky move for a weekly drama, but from what I can see in the first eight episodes it's one which pays off for the most part: Clark struggles further with his impending destiny, Lana is conflicted by her attraction to our hero but the inevitable danger that comes with it while Lex faces his inner demons during his time stranded on an island and in the Belle Reeve mental asylum later on. These plot arcs also allow for more classic DC characters of the Super-Man lore to be introduced, for example future head of the Daily Planet Perry White and scheming crimelord Morgan Edge make appearances regularly here. The problem with the wide narrative of Season 3 so far is that when the writers choose to stray for one-off stories, these can feel disjointed and slow as viewers try to make it through just to see any progressions in the main arc. For my conclusion to this look back at Smallville Season 3, and eventually for reviews of the other six series (and Season 10!), check back in 2011.

Advent Calendar Day Twenty-One: Feature Reveal 1

Brand new features are heading to On-Screen in 2011, so here's just one of them! Harry Potter has become an iconic franchise worldwide, with both the books and films grossing millions of dollars with each release- but which form of media is better? From January to June I'll be looking at the first six Potter books (Philosopher's Stone-Half Blood Prince) and their film adaptations to see whether at any point the film trumps its source. Rare, yes, but as it's been a while since the last book was released it seems only right that I return to one of my favourite book series in a long time and see whether the novels (and films) still stand the test of time. Check back in late January when I compare the two versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and of course when both parts of Deathly Hallows are out on DVD I'll be doing the same for Book Seven as well!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Advent Calendar Day Twenty: 2010 In Entertainment

2010- what a year. Movies struggled at first after Avatar and Sherlock Holmes outstayed their welcome nearly a whole month in, but once the spring was done we got into true classics like Toy Story 3, Inception and The A-Team, and comedy took a turn for the better with The Other Guys, Grown-Ups and Pirahna (okay, so maybe that wasn't a comedy, but come on, the trailers made it look like one). Even Avatar got another chance to rule the box office (though it failed), and horrors found yet new life in Buried and Paranormal Activity 2. The year culminated with a couple of sensational releases, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part One and Tron: Legacy, before giving way to the tepid comedies that are just there for the hell of it being Christmas (Meet the Parents 3, I'm looking at you). British television on the other hand was a mixed bag in that although Doctor Who made a valiant return with Matt Smith in the lead and Sky One's An Idiot Abroad got a lot of laughs, the line-up was pretty similar to every year before it so there wasn't much to be excited about- the FIFA World Cup certainly did little to sate our appetites either as England performed, well, less impressively than expected. Gaming, however, had a great twelve months thanks to returns of key franchises like Mass Effect, Super Mario, Assassin's Creed, Need for Speed, Battlefield, Fable, Star Wars and Halo, plus a host of new faces like Epic Mickey and Red Dead Redemption. Admittedly, there were a few disappointments: Call of Duty and Medal of Honour's annual updates stank of lacking innovation with little to no noticeable changes in game-play, but these weren't disheartening enough to derail what overall has been an excellent year for entertainment!

2010 In Games- Winter

Kinect opened November with a bang, as the hordes flocked to midnight launches despite its £130 price point to get their hardware home and plug it in to change their Xbox 360s forever- and rumour has it, that's exactly what the camera managed to do! Meanwhile Call of Duty: Black Ops and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood hit stores after year-long waits for both franchises, selling phenomenally and both rating well with critics, but also signalling the end for big video game releases in 2010. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part One were released shortly after (the latter proving unbelievably rubbish), then a few other surprising hits came in rapid succession: Epic Mickey; Sonic Colours; Gran Turismo 5; Super Mario All Stars and Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare are all available on consoles now just in time for Christmas! In short, Winter contained a couple of huge releases that were backed up by inevitably looked-over yet reportedly great minor titles.

2010 In TV- Winter

It's fair to say that British television schedules haven't exactly been packed this Winter season: the much-loathed Christmas repeats quickly came out in force, ranging from every episode of Friends imaginable to the Top 100 Christmas Adverts on the big day. Merlin closed with an epic finale as the titular wizard fought arch-nemesis Morgana for the kingdom of Camelot with the help of the Knights of the Round Table on BBC One in late November. One particular recent highlight came last night in '100 Greatest Toys with Jonathan Ross', a great look at playthings past where viewers had voted for the toy to top the list, with the Nintendo Wii coming third, Monopoly coming a close second and LEGO first. It's this sort of entertainment that, while rare, helps bulk out the mass of repeats every year! Christmas Day itself sees Doctor Who return in A Christmas Carol, Ronnie Corbett take the lead with other top comedians in The One Ronnie and David Walliams and Matt Lucas (of Little Britain) in the first part of spoof airport-documentary Come Fly With Me. Winter hasn't been an altogether busy time for British TV, so it's been left to a few popular shows to steal the show amongst repeats.

2010 In Film- Winter

The winter season is mostly hit or miss generally in terms of film, in that the majority of producers have had their major hits released in the Summer, however some interesting comedies or sequels are often reserved for the festivities of Christmas to get that last bit of cash in before the New Year. Nothing bucked this trend in 2010, with a load of underwhelming flicks such as Due Date and Megamind being shovelled into cinemas throughout November, and there certainly doesn't seem to be much in the way of change this month either through movies like Gulliver's Travels and Burlesque (both reported as let-downs). That's not to say that Winter was a completely lost opportunity, though, as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One; Tron: Legacy and Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (which has been reviewed well, with my own rating coming very soon!) have all performed excellently at the box office, the first even gaining my Film of the Year award. Overall, Winter has closed 2010 with more of a whimper than a bang, but thank goodness a couple of masterpieces were held back for the cold times!

My Film Of The Year

Let's make something clear: I didn't anticipate for a moment when I saw the first trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One that it would go on to become my favourite film of 2010. After a year chock-full of greats like Toy Story 3, The A-Team and Kick-Ass I thought the fact that the film covered the relatively calm first half of the seventh book would prove its downfall. How wrong I was; battles in the sky, emotions raising the roof, violent confrontations and sexual hallucinations that took the '12' age rating to its absolute limit- Part One was the best Potter flick yet for me, and a sensational stand-alone movie in its own right. The A-Team was hilarious but shallow, Toy Story 3 was tearful but sometimes predictable, Eclipse was action-paced but still featured the same ambiguous romance-based conflicts as always, Kick-Ass kicked ass but felt too unrealistic, Cemetrey Junction lost points for misusing Ricky Gervais and Iron Man 2 wasn't the perfect sequel, so none of those stood out for me as much as this did upon the first viewing. Even Tron: Legacy with its fancy animation and great cast didn't break as many established rules of its franchise as Deathly Hallows did by moving the action out of Hogwarts and into the dark intensity of the human world, so that's why Harry and pals snatched this award. Here's wondering if Part Two can rule 2011 through the massive wave of sequels and prequels set to storm the cinemas!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Advent Calendar Day Nineteen: Smallville Season Two

Smallville started to find its legs with Season Two, moving from its irritating 'Monster of the Week' format to a narrative which forced Clark towards his destiny step by step as he learnt more about his Kryptonian heritage and future responsibilities every week. Trouble is, there's also the nagging sense that Season Two moves to 'Emotional Dilemma of the Week' frequently when Clark and pals deal with competing romances, pregnancies, secrets and consequences on a weekly basis. Very few episodes lack at least one plot thread which advances a relationship or dilemma further, and while this works for the majority it also means that the original strength of the show that viewers could miss an episode then return the next week unconfused is well and truly gone. Classic-Superman Christopher Reeve makes a great appearance as the enigmatic Dr. Virgil Swann late on, revealing secrets of Clark's dead planet Krypton and thus advancing the story of Superman much further on than in any Season One story. The finale, 'Exodus', feels less effective than last season's 'Tempest' in that it lowers the scale and tension, though the cliff-hanger is a steep one for the Man of Steel, turning the show in a way not seen before. Overall, Season Two is a major improvement on the original, but it needed more action, less emotion!

Top 5 Dark Horses Of 2011

Sometimes there are releases which we haven't heard much about, but accomplish much more than expected, and already there look to be a good few of these set to debut in 2011. Here are my top 5:
5. BULLETSTORM (video game)- This brand new shooter rewards you for being inventive with your kills (for example, you'll get more points for using your leash to thrust yourself into an enemy and kick him into an electrical generator than you will for simply getting a headshot). It may not sound too different to other shooters, but from what I've seen it's the scale and innovation of Bulletstorm that will set it apart.
4. SHERLOCK (television show)- Series One of this modern reinvention went down a storm on the BBC, and with three new stories in the Autumn this should just keep becoming more of a success!
3. L.A NOIRE (video game)- Set in 1930s New York, L.A Noire takes you on multiple murder cases as an investigative policeman. With any other developer this could have been mediocre, but this is Rockstar (of Grand Theft Auto) we're talking about!
2. THE HANGOVER: PART II (film)- Comedy sequels are often terrible, but given the quality of the original the team probably know they have a lot to live up to. The lack of trailers or publicity make this a dark horse, yet it could be superb.
1. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (film)- Very few people know about this series revamp, but if First Class gets the formula right that X3 and Origins got wrong, it could be one of the best films released in 2011.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Top 5 Most Anticipated Films Of 2011

2011's going to be a heck of a year for movies, so here are a just a few films that look set to stand out from the crowd:
5. SEASON OF THE WITCH- It's a little known film opening 2011, but Season of the Witch looks to be an early stunner as Nicholas Cage and Ron Pearlman have to defeat a creature of pure evil.
4. THOR/CAPTAIN AMERICA- Both of these Marvel Avengers films are being released within two months of each other (May and July respectively), and from what I can tell they're about to put the finishing touches to creating the team that's made such a plot arc!
3. PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES- We've had a full trilogy of the POTC flicks now, but what is almost a revamp looks to be a fresh, hilarious re-start!
2. SHERLOCK HOLMES 2- The original Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr was one of the best adaptations of Conan Doyle's hero, so further adventures next Christmas can only be a good thing. No word on plot yet, but details will come soon!
1. HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2- The first part of Deathly Hallows (5/5) was near-perfect given how dark it became, especially in that it had the more calm half of the book, so I eagerly await Part 2 to improve on that even further but more so provide the epic climax to what has become a cult phenomenon!

Top 5 Most Anticipated Games Of 2011

2011 should be a brilliant year for video gaming, and to let you know which games to be most excited about here's my countdown on the titles I've got my eye on already:
5. PORTAL 2- This time around in the gravity puzzler, you have to continue to use physics to find your way through test mazes...that are still in construction!
4. STAR WARS: KINECT- One of the major titles for the 360 peripheral next year, the cartoon-graphics, intuitive controls and 360-exclusive plot should make this a winner.
3. FORZA MOTORSPORT 4- Forza 2 and 3 were great racers, but the addition of Kinect compatibility could send this outright up and above Gran Turismo 5 (7/10) next Autumn.
2. BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY- Before the game at the top of the list was announced just days ago, Arkham City was easily my most anticipated title, yet it still remains one of those which I'm most excited about because of the open-world and intense plot.
1. MASS EFFECT 3- But this is the big one: Mass Effect has had a massive effect on how role-play games work, and all the decisions we've made in the first two instalments are about to come back to haunt us with this epic finale- can't wait!

Your Film Of The Year

So, the final choice made by you the public of the best film of 2010 is The A-Team! What an action flick that was: as far as series revamps go, it did a splendid job of showcasing the comedy-fuelled battles of the popular fictional team, never spending too long on one setpiece or plot detail to become mediocre as it easily could have. Liam Neeson and co were each brilliantly suited to their heroes, merging to form some of the best on-screen chemistry of the whole year in film. I'd definitely call this a very good choice by everyone out there, and though it won't be the film that wins my top flick of 2010 award, I certainly won't be delaying in returning to revel in the hilarious glory of The A-Team.

Tron: Legacy Review (5/5)

When examining Tron: Legacy, the anticipated sequel to the 1982 Disney classic starring Jeff Bridges, a phrase used frequently throughout comes to mind: "Perfection isn't far away, it's right in front of us." On so many occasions, Legacy comes close to eclipsing Avatar (5/5) both in scale and plot, yet falls into the traps of its genre with predictability in such a way that keeps the chance of film perfection within reaching distance but unobtainable. So why has it got full marks? Though Avatar was perhaps a landmark in animation and three-dimensional technology, the storyline itself was nothing to get excited about, proving unmistakeably obvious from the outset and in a similar sense holding it back from perfection for one simple reason: no film is perfect. For all its faults, Tron: Legacy excels in plot and animation 99% of the time, and even when it doesn't the other of those two elements more than compensates when one or the other is failing to impress. The sequel follows Sam Flynn, the son of the protagonist in Tron (4/5), as he investigates his father's disappearance in the virtual world while attempting to free 'the grid' from a tyrant who ceased control as programs lost faith in their leader (if this sounds anything like the Nazis' rise to power to you, you certainly wouldn't be the only one to think it). In 3-D, Legacy looks simply dazzling, with power discs sent hurtling towards the audience in well-animated battles that as the name of the technology suggests are given an extra dimension through the glasses. The stumbles I mentioned earlier in plot essentially boil down to 'twists' like betrayals and a sacrifice which pretty much everyone saw coming, but they don't stop Legacy from being a surprise hit in my books, and one that could easily launch a new series.

Film Of The Year 2010 Nominees

It's time for your verdict on this year's top film. Here are the nominations:
KICK-ASS: No one could possibly deny this British flick was a hilarious, realistic spin on the super-hero movie genre, and contributions by Nicholas Cage and Mark Strong only sweetened the deal.
IRON MAN 2: It's never an easy job making a sequel, but Iron Man 2 performed valiantly in the box office and with critics as it merged in a wealth of Avengers teasers.
CEMETERY JUNCTION: Once again a Brit film, Cemetery Junction did a surprisingly admirable job of providing a neat throw-back to late 1900s Reading for a heartwarming tale of employment, family and romance (much more interesting than it could have been!)
THE TWILIGHT SAGA- ECLIPSE: The third film in the sensationally popular franchise, Eclipse finally gave boyfriends dragged along some gratutious violence and twists!
THE A-TEAM: Where The Expendables failed on all fronts to be anything but a desperate attempt for cash, The A-Team succeeded by mixing comedy and action with superb results.
TOY STORY 3: Undoubtedly one of my personal favourites of 2010, Toy Story 3 returned to the world of Andy's playthings, yet shocked greatly as it dealt with the concept of growing up and the idea that everyone's life must one day come to an end.
HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS- PART ONE: Darker, grittier and with a sense of utter climax on its way, Deathly Hallows' opening segment was thrilling throughout and a great contender for this award...and that's only the first part, wait until #2!

Advent Calendar Day Eighteen: Who Retrospective

The Sun are offering a free DVD compliation of last year's Doctor Who Christmas Special "The End of Time" and the Season Five opener "The Eleventh Hour" with today's paper, and bearing in mind the upcoming premiere of "A Christmas Carol" on December 25th, I returned to these three stories for a second viewing. The most noticable difference here is in tone: "The End of Time" opens as an epic movie in all but screen size with Part One, as the Doctor (David Tennant) races against time (literally!) to find old foe the Master (John Simm) while attempting to fathom what might be the cause of his impending regeneration, as an omniscient narrator speaks of dark events folding around the Earth. Tennant gives it his all here, from the comedy scenes on the Ood Sphere to his emotional breakdown speaking in a cafe to Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins), while Simm portrays a Master on his hinges as death inevitably beckons, launching a terrible scheme to turn humanity into him. The cliff-hanger is a little too melodramatic for this reviewer, but Part Two compensates by providing the ultimate send-off for the Tenth Doctor. There are admittedly a lot of chase scenes in Tennant's final adventure involving the classic repeating corridors of old, so at times it can feel like Part Two is simply moving back and forth; however, move to the confrontation between the Doctor, the Master and the Time Lords (led superbly by Timothy Dalton) and we have some of the best television of the year, as our hero must choose whether to save his own race or humanity. As I was saying about tone, after heartwarming visits to his old friends and an explosive regeneration, Matt Smith steals the show as the new Doctor in "The Eleventh Hour", an altogether lighter 60-minute romp where Smith proves he's in a league of his own, manically trying to find his favourite food then ultimately save the world from a Face Tendril (though the animation of this creature did leave a lot to be desired). All three episodes on the disc make for an essential package if you don't own the box-sets but want some great (non-repeat) television this Christmas!

Friday, 17 December 2010

My Game Of The Year

Red Dead Redemption was great but let down by its glitches; Mass Effect 2 had an amazing plot and much improved game-play, yet the quality of the final boss battle was a downer; Halo: Reach had a great campaign, near-endless replay value and refined the shooter formula fully, however the lack of a true ending for Bungie's sci-fi masterpiece did leave the plot feeling somewhat hollow at times. No, for me it had to be Super Mario Galaxy 2 that stole the show in 2010: the soundtrack was beautifully orchestrated, the visuals were the Wii's absolute best (surprising given how impressive the original graphics were), the game-play was exactly what Mario should be in 2010 and much more balanced than before and the 240 Power Stars to collect each felt like an individual challenge (challenge being the key word- it's hard enough that I've yet to beat it 100%) but equally individually compelling. Nothing I saw before or after Super Mario Galaxy 2 this year truly matched the astonishment of how flawlessly side-scrolling and open-world gameplay was merged throughout, and as for the plot? Once again, it was the iconic plumber through and through, not venturing out of the safety zone but all the same letting the levels do the talking- which they did perfectly.

Advent Calendar Day Seventeen: Coming Up...

It's very nearly Christmas, and even I need to take a break sometimes, but rest assured that as December 25th comes to a close there'll be some reviews of brand new, exciting releases out now and coming soon that should keep you satisfied until On-Screen's return on January the 5th. Until then, though, we'll still be the most up-to-date source for entertainment anywhere, bringing you the first, honest reviews of Tron: Legacy and Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, taking a look back at the winter season in film; television and gaming, finding our most anticipated releases of 2011 and continuing the Advent Calendar right up until the big day. Don't worry, we're not going anywhere until Boxing Day, so keep coming to On-Screen for daily updates!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Advent Calendar Day Sixteen: Mcintyre Joins BGT

It's been rumoured for weeks, but now iTV have confirmed that Michael McIntyre will join the judging panel of Britain's Got Talent from the 2011 series onwards. The move follows Piers Morgan's departure from the show in 2010 to host a prime-time programme in the US, and was announced on the same day as David Hasslehoff's inclusion in the BGT panel. McIntyre, speaking fresh off his signing tour for autobiography Life & Laughing (4/5) called the job "extremely exciting", saying that he was "thrilled when Simon Cowell asked". It was also confirmed in the iTV press release that only Amanda Holden would appear with the two new judges for the live auditions, with Simon Cowell joining the show later on. I myself am a huge fan of Michael McIntyre, so this is quite the early Xmas present!

2010 In Games- Autumn

Autumn was undoubtedly the season of the franchise, opening with the releases of Metroid: Other M, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (8/10) and Halo: Reach (10/10), the latter performing extremely well with midnight launches across the world and a huge ad campaign, while later in September music-rhythm series were continued with Guitar Hero: Warriors Of Rock (4/10) and Rock Band 3. October was a mixed bag: Fable III (8.5/10), DJ Hero 2 (9/10) and Super Scribblenauts were major hits on consoles, but DLC game Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, over-hyped shooter Medal of Honour and relatively identical sequels Fallout: New Vegas (8/10) and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 (8/10) didn't garner an impressive amount of sales all things considered. So overall while some of 2010's greatest hits could be found in the Autumn, some of its biggest disappointments were there too!

2010 In TV- Autumn

At this time of year, most British channels are simply looking to beef up their line-up with a couple of surprise series sure to gain favour with their viewers. Sky One provided an unexpected gem in Karl Pilkington's An Idiot Abroad as we saw the titular idiot exploring the Seven Wonders of the World and providing his hilarious opinions on them (of the Great Wall of China: "Yeah, it goes up and down and over the hills, but so does the M4!") while being plagued by Ricky Gervais' irritating cackling all the way. Digital channel E4 finally culminated its weekly run-through of Smallville Season Nine (22 episodes long, so as you can imagine it took a while)- now where's Season 10, is what the fans like myself are asking? BBC One reimagined popular animated hits Wallace & Gromit in their first non-fictional show World Of Invention, where each week clips of the characters speaking on a topic would be inter-cut with real-world interviews on that scientific debate. It proved much more interesting than we might have though, injecting some humour into science. As always, Autumn wasn't a busy time for British television- it's Christmas where it's at!

2010 In Film- Autumn

Surprise, surprise James Cameron couldn't stop his box office success with sci-fi masterpiece Avatar (5/5), releasing a Special Edition version in cinemas with- get this- 8 WHOLE MINUTES of extra material! Clearing seeing through this, the public didn't take well, with the Special Edition grossing far less than the original (but can you blame us?). September saw a couple of impressive minor releases like The Other Guys and Buried, though sleeper flicks such as Legend of the Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole (yes, really) ensured that it wasn't a popular month for viewers. October didn't fare particularly better, with horror instalments Let Me In and Paranormal Activity 2 providing the only genuine thrills amongst little-known flicks Tamara Drewe, Inside Job and The Elite Squad II. In short, Autumn was probably the worst season for movies in 2010, suffering from a major lack of ingenuity and innovation so leaving a heck of a lot to be desired by film-goers.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Advent Calendar Day Fifteen: Nativity Review (5/5)

There's no shaking the feeling that Nativity is doomed right from the outset. Immediately, its plot-lines of a lost romance, lying to keep kids happy and eventually putting on a large-scale production will seem like mere Ghosts of Christmas Films Past to seasoned viewers, so it's a completely welcome surprise to find that this is one of the best festive flicks of recent times. Current Sherlock star Martin Freeman shines as a stern teacher who has lost his love of December 25th ever since having his relationship shattered on the big day, but though it would have been easy for Nativity to turn into the umpteenth version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with Freeman as Scrooge, the literal stars of the show here are the kids. No, you won't know any of their names, but each one adds a little something to the movie that results in an emotionally stirring climax for even hard-core fans of action films such as myself. In fact, that's the crux of Nativity: it's the little things that count here, such as the hilarious antics of Mr. Poppy, the great (though minor) cameos of Alan Carr as the Critic and the festive songs throughout that make it a British comedy that should be remembered for its light-hearted yet touching approach to the season of good will, and proves that the kids aren't just all right- they are simply fantastic.

Where Did Arthur: The Great Adventure Come From?

Don't be taken too aback if the title of this post means almost nothing to you- until today I had no idea that Arthur and the Great Adventure was about to hit cinemas on Christmas Eve, more surprising perhaps for someone like myself who knows the majority of film releases coming up in 2011, let alone those remaining this year. Having done some research, the back-story is as such: Arthur and the Invisibles (2.5/5, a comedy-animation starring Freddie Highmore and Madonna) did relatively well in the US box office, and since it's part of a trilogy of books producers MGM saw the success as a great opportunity to milk some extra cash from the cow, commissioning a sequel, Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard, to be released in cinemas...in 2009. So, what happened? Well, American cinemas did indeed get the latest instalment in November '09, but for some absurd reason only now are we getting the re-named movie on British shores. The Great Adventure- starring Highmore once again and Selena Gomez (of Disney Channel fame) taking over Madonna's role as whimsical pixie Selenia (probably a coincidence name-wise given who originally had the role, not that Gomez minds)- teenager Arthur returns to the minature land of the Minomoys for a reunion party, only to find himself lured into a trap by old enemy Maltazard (it's never a good sign when the villian in two animated films stays the same, only meaning that repetition is a given). Don't be surprised if this performs well in the box office out of sheer interest by kids who haven't seen the original, but from what I can recall if The Great Adventure is anything like Arthur and the Invisibles then you may regret spilling out cash and time to see it.