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Saturday, 31 December 2011

The 20 Best Moments Of 2011 On-Screen

#10- THE CREDITS MONTAGE (The Inbetweeners Movie)- A nice surprise, this one: clearly taking cues from The Hangover, the writers of the final instalment of The Inbetweeners elected to include a credits scene where the guys arrived back at the airport and introduced their new girlfriends to their parents. Set to the backing of Sean Kingston's Party All Night (Sleep All Day), this scene was so deliciously crammed with in-jokes and so neatly dovetailed the series that it was impossible to omit it from the list.
#9- THE RIVER SONG REVEAL (Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes To War)- I think most Doctor Who fans had guessed who River Song was by the time mid-series finale A Good Man Goes To War aired. However, it was the scene between Matt Smith and Alex Kingston where River criticised the Doctor for succumbing to his darkest hour and his famous legacy of fear, only to then redeem him with their near-silent revealing of who she was to him and to the Ponds. Murray Gold perfectly orchestrates his soundtrack in this ambiguous yet utterly effective scene which proved so instrumental (sorry) to the second half of this year's run.
#8- THE COURTYARD BATTLE (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2)- Having just rewatched Part 2, I can still confirm that I preferred Part 1 and would still rank Super 8, The King's Speech and Rise of the Planet of the Apes over it, but what a film. The scene where Harry, Ron and Hermione step out into the Hogwarts courtyard to find a raging battle of students, teachers and Death Eaters destroying it is masterfully directed by David Yates, a visual showcase of just how far this British franchise has come in the space of ten years.
#7- JONATHAN AND MARTHA CONVINCE CLARK (Smallville: Finale Part 1)- When Clark Kent feels like all hope is lost as his wedding is gatecrashed by Apokolyps, it takes his mother and the spirit of his father to guide him towards the light in his barn. Annette O'Toole, John Schneider and Tom Welling are sublime in what for me stands as the best scene of the Finale two-parter to this day.
#6- THE TRAIN CRASH (Super 8)- A peculiar choice of mine, this: rarely would I base one of my Top 2011 scenes on its special effects, but Steven Spielberg and co truly outdo themselves with this beautiful, awe-inspiring wreckage of the train freighter from Area 51, perhaps the most realistic depiction of a science-fiction event in the history of the genre.
#5- THE JOKER DIES (Batman: Arkham City)- Easily the most memorable dark moment of the dozens on offer in Arkham City, the Joker's death at the hands of the Dark Knight himself, who then shares his 'final joke' with his timeless adversary is a stunning and breathtaking final twist that should send Rocksteady's version of the DC Universe to big places when they inevitably return for one helluva sequel!
#4- FLY ME TO THE MOON (Portal 2)- Anyone who's played right the way through Portal 2 will undoubtedly remember as I do the thrill of seeing the moon, a shining white surface ready for us to plant a portal on and thus to send Stephen Merchant's hilarious friend-turned-foe Wheatley hurtling into space. Only Valve could pull such a daring move, and then have the audacity to leave us in stitches as the disfunctional AIs also sent into space repeatedly interrupt Wheatley's final speech with random comments about their situation, and it's moments like this which secured the game's place as the second best of the entire year.
#3- THE DOCTOR BEATS THE SILENCE (Doctor Who: Day of the Moon)- How could our favourite Time Lord possibly best the sinister Silence, who had captured Amy and looked set to rule the human race forever? Why, only by using the clip of them commanding humans to kill them on sight against them! This scene was masterfully crafted, merging the American roots of this stunning opening two-parter with the intriguing set-up for this series' hugely ambitious story arc.
#2- I HAVE A VOICE (The King's Speech)- This touching conversation between Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush that forces Bertie to confront his fears of becoming King, climaxing with this momentous line delivered perfectly by Firth, and Rush's brief yet infinitely deep reply "Yes you do." seals the deal on this as one of 2011's best moments.
#1- SNAPE (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2)- Above all, the revelation of Severus Snape's secret through a beautiful montage presented in the Pensieve was a perfect conclusion to the character's story arc, brought across amazingly by Alan Rickman and Michael Gambon to pack the most emotional punch any scene in a film or television has attempted this year. Incredible stuff!

Friday, 30 December 2011

January 2012: Top 5 Most Anticipated Releases

I remember writing this same list for January 2011- Kingdom Hearts: Re-Coded; Season of the Witch; The King's Speech; LittleBigPlanet 2 and Dead Space 2 kicked off the year, and what a year it was. Still, there's no use looking back on the past when there's so much ahead of us, so let's look at what the fairly TV-centric January's best releases could be:
5. HUSTLE- The BBC's brilliant crime drama returns for its very last season (sniff), and it should be interesting to see just how all of the dark plot threads and arcs come to a shattering conclusion in these epic six episodes we've got to look forward to! (January 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th)
4. WE'LL TAKE MANHATTAN- Another effort from the BBC, this time starring Doctor Who's Karen Gillian and a one-off rather than a series. Karen's a fantastic actress in my opinion, so seeing more of her outside of her wonderous portrayal of Amy Pond, this time in a one-off special focusing on 60s supermodel Jean Shrimpton, should be a New Year's treat unto itself. (TBC)
3. J EDGAR- The life of former CIA boss John Edgar Hoover is one I'm intrigued to learn more about, and I can think of no better way than with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio, a brilliant actor who always brings a unique depth and fascination to every character he portrays! (January 20th)
2. WAR HORSE- One of my Top 10 Most Anticipated Films Of 2012 arrives onto the scene just days into the year! Yep, Steven Spielberg is back to take us on a trip to the Second World War, breaking our hearts and uplifting them again as he did with Saving Private Ryan all those years ago. An early Film of the Year contender...? (January 13th)
1. SHERLOCK- First place honours had to go to yet another BBC drama, the sensational modern version of Sherlock Holmes crafted by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. I can't wait to see how the writers and cast provide their own takes on A Scandal In Bohemia, The Hounds of the Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall, not to mention resolving that almighty cliffhanger posed back in the Summer of 2010! Expect nothing less than a masterclass in modern televisual storytelling. (January 1st, 8th and 15th)

December 2011: Best Release

December was a quiet conclusion to 2011's stellar twelve months of entertainment, providing us with a few little gems that didn't dare bother the best efforts from their respective genres released earlier in the year. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was one such example of this- an excellent sequel that never quite matched up to its predecessor, yet still kept viewers engrossed in the final battle of Sherlock and Moriarty. The overly-complex plot and iffy gags stopped this being a Film of the Year contender for me, but A Game of Shadows still remains one of this year's best releases. Catch this one on DVD as soon as it's out if you played a shadowy game and missed it at the cinema...Of course, this rounds up our list of 2011's Best Releases, so without further ado here are the twelve (well, thirteen) releases you should have seen and played this year!
This monthly feature will continue next year- so what twelve greats will help sum up 2012...?

UK Gaming Charts: 19th-25th December

File:FIFA 12 cover.jpgWere you as surprised as I was that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim made Christmas Number One last week? Well, prepare for another big surprise, 'cause it's not Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 OR new release Star Wars: The Old Republic that's toppled it...it's FIFA 12! Not personally a highlight of 2011 for me, but for football fans it really didn't come any better than 12 this year, so I don't blame parents for flocking out to get their kids to the new entry. Now, let's see what the quiet next week and opening months of 2012 (it's all calm until late February really) hold...(and no, I can't quite believe Zumba Fitness has two entries in the Top 20, either- where are all these sales coming from?)
16. SUPER MARIO 3D LAND (8.5/10)
12. MARIO KART 7 (8.5/10)
11. FORZA MOTORSPORT 4 (9.5/10)
4. BATTLEFIELD 3 (7/10)
1. FIFA 12 (8/10)

UK Film Charts: December 19th-25th

Well, I could have called this- Arthur Christmas swept back to the top of the UK Box Office charts left week as the festive season reigned, overtaking A Game of Shadows and newcomer Don 2 to become our Christmas Number One. Here's the chart in full, then we'll be looking ahead to 2012 to see what it brings...oh, but first we'll cover whether Ghost Protocol or Dragon Tattoo had any effect on proceedings next week!
8. HAPPY FEET 2 (3.5/5)
6. DON 2 (NEW)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Review (4/5)

I came into Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol expecting a far-fetched, predictable romp which did little that other action movies hadn't done before. I was right on all accounts, and yet I came out pleasantly surprised with just how much fun I'd had with it. The plot revolves around Ethan Hunt's escape from prison and his mission to clear the names of his team and himself, framed for the bombing of the Kremlin. The scene where we enter that famous Russian monument is about as stereotypical of a country as a film gets, but you'll be too busy loving Simon Pegg's impression of an egotistical general to get too bothered by the blatant generalisation. In fact, that sentence can be applied to most of the flaws that the fourth MI shows- no one setpiece is ever innovative or perfect, just thrilling enough that you couldn't care less about the reasons why. Despite what you'd think, the number of films that can still provide a colossal fun factor and moreso a thrill factor constantly is growing worringly slim nowadays, and although I think it's our overreliance on franchises such as this one that's allowing this swift reduction, Ghost Protocol doesn't suffer from this trait. There will rarely be a moment where you're left bored, simply because you'll be too engrossed in the activities of the main protagonists to think about the actual likeliehood an realism of said activities. Yes, the chances of someone surviving a car crash involving their vehicle plummeting head-first down twenty feet of open air are pretty damn slim, let's be honest, but this is Ethan Hunt we're talking about, so why not? Tom Cruise really is on fine form here as he was with his all-action hero in Knight & Day, yet newcomers Jeremy Renner (who we'll be seeing a lot more of in the next year, since he's got lead roles in The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy!) and Paula Patton more than hold up their own, as does returnee Simon Pegg, who's always on hand to provide some comic relief in the film's rare dark moments. So Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol won't win any Oscars- who cares? Honestly, I couldn't think of a more exciting way to end this Year of Film than with this brilliant action film, a wonderful showcase of how the genre can still work even today. If this series gets another mission soon, I'd be the first to accept it.
As such, I've made a little change to the Top 15 Films Of The Year list, taking out the iffy I Am Number Four and replacing it with Ghost Protocol, a movie that is superior in so many respects. What a great surprise to end the year! You can see the updated list below...
11. PAUL

3. SUPER 8

Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 Announced

There was a pretty mixed reaction among fans to Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 when it released in Autumn 2010, as many criticised its physics engine as not feeling remniscent of the iconic hedgehog's Mega Drive outings. SEGA have gone back ot the drawing board, then, and are now promising whole new visual and physics engines for Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 2, a new downloadable title which they announced via a teaser trailer on Gamespot yesterday. The trailer shows that both Tails and Metal Sonic will be returning in the new engine, and that the former character's appearance may lead to some co-op play. Keep an eye on this one, because after the excellent Colours and Generations, Sonic's golden age may now continue, this time harkening back to the past while looking towards the future! Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 will be released on Xbox 360, PS3, Android mobiles and iOS devices in 2012.

Marvel Graphic Novels Collection Announced

Hachette Partworks Ltd have this week announced the publication of a new range of collectable graphic novels starting next Monday. Titled the Marvel Graphic Novels Collection, the set will work in a similar way to magazines which are released fortnightly and build to make a final product, in this case the beautiful image shown to the left which can be created by each of the spines of the book being placed in the order of their release. Issue 1 will retail for £2.99, Issue 2 for £6.99 and from Issue 3 onwards the regular price will be £9.99 (not a bad deal considering the novels come with additional content like character timelines). The graphic novels announced so far for the range are Spider-Man: Coming Home; Uncanny X-Men: Dark Phoenix; Iron Man: Extremis; The Ultimates: Super-Human; The Amazing Spider-Man: Birth of Venom and Thor: Reborn, with many more promised in the future, so if you're a fan of Marvel Comics and can afford the investment this really could be a brilliant thing to subscribe to next year!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

My Top 5 Most Anticipated Films Of 2012

So, here we are: up to the five films I'm most excited to see next year. The best news I can impart is that by the end of the first half of 2012, we will have seen the majority of them and have got an idea of just what the Film of the Year could be, but as ever bear in mind that Rise of the Planet of the Apes, my Film of the Year 2011, wasn't even on last year's Most Anticipated list, and therefore that means anything and everything can happen in the months to come! I for one cannot wait to see what truly lies ahead...
#5: PROMETHEUS- Ridley Scott's Alien prequel is looking like the best horror movie of 2012, a truly stunning insight into the depths of human creation and the severe consequences of our race's need to find out how everything began. Could we be responsible for our very own undoing at the hands of the Xenomorphs? The trailer certainly doesn't do anything to dispute that thought...expect nothing less than thrilling scares aplenty from Scott and his incredible special effects team. June 1st
#4: THE MUPPETS MOVIE- On the other hand, we've got perhaps the most light-hearted movie of the year, a return for Jim Henson's hilarious puppets along with a long list of big celebrities lending their talents along the way. Jason Segel and Amy Adams head a huge production, centreing around the Muppets' quest to save their theatre and ressurect their long-dead show. You'll need to indulge yourself a little, but once you do you'll probably find this one of the most enjoyable experiences the next twelve months have to offer! February 10th
#3: THE AVENGERS- And on the other hand, we've got a rather epic ensemble movie that Marvel Studios have been building up to for years now. Yep, ever since Iron Man released in 2005 we've had hints about the 'Avenger initiative', and everything's about to come to fruition now as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Hawkeye and the Hulk team up to face off against Loki and the mysterious threat he brings with him. Comic fans, you owe it to yourself to get to the cinema and see this. April 27th
#2: THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY- And on the other other hand, there's Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings franchise returning with the first part of a big prequel. Get ready to follow Bilbo Baggins on his unexpected journey to the Misty Mountains, uncovering trolls, secrets and a golden ring and its demonic possessor next Christmas. If this doesn't come close to winning Film of the Year 2012, I'll be so surprised I might just start worshipping a Precious myself...December 14th

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES- But this is where all the action is- The Dark Knight Rises looks fantastic, a truly stunning conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman film trilogy. What awaits the Dark Knight as he faces his greatest physical challenge yet, fighting Bane, Catwoman and the League of Shadows? I cannot wait to find out, and Nolan will have really let me down if this isn't deemed worthy of my Best Film of 2012 shortlist come year's end! July 20th

Top 20 Most Anticipated Films Of 2012: #10-#6

We're now onto the best half of this shortlist- my Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of next year. Believe me, I reckon we've got some genuine Film of the Year contenders in each of these ten movies, and I'll kick off proceedings in the countdown with those which narrowly missed out on the Top Five...
#10: MEN IN BLACK III- The only reason that MIB3 is so low down this list is that the Men In Black films can ultimately result in rather shallow viewing experiences on repeat viewings. That said, the first watch is always brilliant, and seeing Will Smith and Tommy Lee-Jones back together for another epic mission will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of film in 2012!
#9: THE HUNGER GAMES- Jennifer Lawrence wowed the world with her beautiful portrayal of Mystique in X-Men: First Class (9.5/10) earlier this year, so I reckon it should be even more exciting to see her take on the protagonist role in this adaptation of the first in Suzanne Collins' great trilogy of fantasy novels.
#8: WAR HORSE- Steven Spielberg has a wonderous track record with his emotional movies, as shown by his stellar Super 8 (10/10), yet it could well be his adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's critically acclaimed war novel that wins him the most awards since Saving Private Ryan if he's handled it right. Yep, turns out his return to World War Two film could be what brings Spielberg back into the Oscar limelight...
#7: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN- Fans are divided over this reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise, taking the Webbed Wonder back to his high school days and revamping his origins storyline, but with The Social Network's Andrew Garfield as Peter and his alter-ego and Emma Stone in tow as Gwen Stacy, I really don't think there's anything to worry about!
#6: THE GREAT GATSBY- Nothing can put into words how excited I am for Leonardo DiCaprio's turn as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan's turn as Daisy Buchanan and Tobey Maguire's as Nick Carraway next December. We haven't really seen enough for me to place this in the Top Five, however we should hopefully get a trailer soon to let us know whether the right dark but realistic tone has been struck by Baz Luhermann, so keep an eye on the blog...

Rock Of Ages Review (4/5)

Having seen the sensational We Will Rock You (5/5) up at the West End recently, my expectations for Rock of Ages, a new rock musical brought over from Broadway, were mixed. Thankfully, the major show is another potential hit for theatre goers, boasting all of the great classic traits of modern musicals and a general feel-good factor uncommon in many other productions in London. The plot, while as shallow as the kiddies' pool, provides a decent bridge between the variety of unique numbers in the play, focusing on the Bourbon Bar and two waiters within it who fall in love but find themselves separated by their lofty dreams of fame and rock. As you might imagine, this well-tread storyline is hardly going to win Ages any awards come next Spring, but in all honestly if you come to this expecting the next Inception then I think you may just need to straighten out your priorities: it's the music which literally takes centre stage here, a well thought-out and varied bunch of songs from throughout the 80s period sure to entice every member of the audience at some point. From iconic hits like The Final Countdown and Don't Stop Believin to lesser-known entries such as Every Rose Has Its Thorn and Can't Fight This Feeling, there really is a song for everyone here, and above all its that musical recognition that keeps Ages from descending into an array of occassionally tasteless gags that wouldn't hold their own if left to the comedy genre. Justin Lee-Collins and Shayne Ward, undoubtedly the show's headline celebrities, are appropriately given smaller roles to let the up-and-coming stars get their chance to shine, and believe me when I say that everyone will have their favourite character no matter what their overall verdict on the show- Franz's "I'm not gay, I'm just German!" came close to stealing the show for me! Yes, although this is hardly going to stand up with the greats of the West End- The Lion King and Queen's famous musical remain my favourite productions I've seen so far- every viewer will struggle not to be immersed into Ages in some way, be it through the super setlist, fantastic portrayals by the cast or even the simple urge to get up and dance (yes, you read right!). There aren't many shows nowadays that can still hold that claim, so I congratulate the team for bringing us such a unique performance here. Sure it blatantly takes cues from We Will Rock You, but Rock of Ages is a budding production unto itself, not perfect by any means yet filled with great moments of acting and direction that can more than warrant the awards it's been nominated for in 2012!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Top 20 Most Anticipated Films Of 2012: #20-#11

Next year promises to be one of the biggest ever twelve months in the history of the movie industry, boasting a lot of impressive standalone feature films and blockbuster sequels for cinema-goers to sink their teeths into, and unlike the game industry's Autumn-focused release schedule adopted lately, the release schedule of new flicks is fairly well balanced over the course of 2012. Here are the first ten entries in my list covering my Top 20 Most Anticipated Films of the months ahead...
#20: MOVIE 43-A bizzare movie, this one seems to be, comprising a long series of comedy sketches that feature the likes of Stephen Merchant, Catherine Tate and many more great celebrities. It could bomb, but I've got faith the stellar cast-list will give Movie 43 strength in its proceedings.
#19: ROCK OF AGES- I'll shortly be seeing this Broadway-converted musical up at the West End and bringing you the definitive verdict on it, yet I'm just as excited to see how Tom Cruise fares as a rocker distraught with his love passions and urge for action admist a Summer full of big name movies!
#18: THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART TWO- I wasn't keen on the opening half of the final Twilight adventure. That said, I hear Breaking Dawn Part Two is set to be filled with both action and romance, two elements which have really fuelled the franchise when successfully blended, so all hope may not be lost for this anticipated finale...
#17: BATTLESHIP- Liam Neeson, Rihanna and a host of other celebrities are joining a Michael Bay-esque adaptation of the classic strategic board game in April, and although the premise is a little cheesy (ships versus aliens, basically), I'm always up for a good CGI action fest.
#16: THE BOURNE LEGACY- It's time to see whether the Bourne franchise can really stand the test of time, as Jeremy Renner helps reboot the series to give its own special Legacy...will the big risk taken by changing the main protagonist pay off? I can't wait to find out!
#15: GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE- I won't beat about the bush: the original Ghost Rider wasted all but every bit of its potential, only redeemed by Nicholas Cage's stellar performance as its titular anti-hero. As such, a reboot dashing all parts of the original but Cage comes as nothing but a welcome pleasure to me, simply because it gives Marvel the chance to right their wrongs with a brilliant comic-book adaptation filled with dark comedy and scares.
#14: STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE IN 3D- There probably aren't many fans out there who would claim The Phantom Menace to be their favourite Star Wars film (I still debate whether it or the woeful Attack of the Clones is the worst entry in the saga to this day), however the majority of fans should be looking forward to seeing its beautiful inter-planetary vistas presented both in stunning HD and the third dimension, not to mention the brilliant battles featured within back on the big screen where they belong!
#13: JOHN CARTER- Disney's epic new fantasy John Carter actually had me really surprised with its first trailer, harkening back to the days of classics like Predator and Star Trek where we could discover whole new fantastical worlds if we tagged along for the ride, and while I'm not quite sure if it can attain such high status as those filmic legends, Carter shows a hell of a lot of promise.
#12: NATIVITY!: THE SECOND COMING- Sequels are always risky endevaours, but Nativity! (2009, 4.5/5) was one of my favourite Christmas films ever, and with a new cast including David Tennant, Joanna Page, Jessica Hynes and Ian McNeice I've got a feeling BBC Films might be about to create another Xmas great this coming November!
#11: SKYFALL- James Bond's last film Quantum of Solace let me down big time, so I couldn't allow Skyfall to quite enter the Top 10 Most Anticipated Films shortlist, but it still remains an exciting prospect nonetheless to see Daniel Craig back in action as Agent 007, discovering secrets about the elusive M and taking on a new mission along the way.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Fifth Series DVD Confirmed

It's still hard to believe that the incredibly talented actress Elisabeth Sladen, who played the Doctor Who companion Sarah-Jane Smith in the 70s and 80s, passed away over half a year ago now, but we will soon have more work to remember her by in stores. 2Entertain have confirmed that they will distribute The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Fifth Series, a compilation of the remaining three aired stories that would have comprised the first half of Series Five had Sladen not succumbed to her cancer in a scheduled break from filming. The three stories are Sky, a nice opener introducing Sarah-Jane's new friend Sky into her family, The Curse of Clyde Langer, one of the show's best efforts that places Clyde at its forefront and investigates homelessness, and The Man Who Never Was, a predictable but poignant closure to this wonderful programme. Special features have yet to be confirmed, but with any luck we may get another classic Who story as a tribute to Sladen like we did with Pyramids Of Mars in The Complete Fourth Series boxset. The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Fifth Series hits DVD and Blu-Ray on February 6th, 2012.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Coming Up This Week: 26th December 2011-1st January 2012

Goodness gracious me, it's weird to be giving this post that title! Has it really been twelve months since The King's Speech, Dead Space 2 and Come Fly With Me's first series? Believe it, and now we're about to enter a huge new year of entertainment, starting with the return of one of telly's biggest shows...
NEW MOVIES- Two big new blockbusters hit this week- Ethan Hunt fights the entire world in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and Stiegg Larsson's most successful novel gets adapted by Hollywood with The Girl In The Dragon Tattoo. If you don't like those, then all the other big films of this season are still in cinemas...
NEW SHOWS- Charles Dickens' Great Expectations gets a modern reinvention from Tuesday-Thursday on BBC One, so look out for that; meanwhile, Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow returns for a re-run of its latest series on Comedy Central.
NEW DVDS- Downton Abbey's Christmas Special hits stores fresh from its acclaimed first showing on December 25th; the third season of comedy show Misfits and Series Five of Futurama are immortalised in disc form; and a few big movies hit DVD and Blu-Ray too, including Cowboys & Aliens, Final Destination 5 and Apollo 18!
SHERLOCK- After Robert Downey Jr's incarnation of the world's greatest detective returned in the grand A Game Of Shadows earlier this month, fans such as myself were begging for more Sherlock Holmes adventures, and starting on New Year's Day we're going to get some with the second season of Sherlock, Moffat and Gatiss' stunning BBC drama. In A Scandal In Belgravia, Sherlock and Watson must escape the bomb-ridden swimming pool, before meeting the elusive Irene Adler and tackling a deadly plot of Jim Moriarty...expect TV greatness right here!
ON THE BLOG- I'll be reviewing Now That's What I Call Music! 80, Doctor Who Series 6: Original Television Soundtrack, Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series, Halo Legends, Harry Potter: Page To Screen, The Marvel Chronicle, Halo: Glasslands, the Blu-Ray versions of Thor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Inbetweeners Movie, The Hangover: Part II and Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI, the DVD of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two and Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia, plus I'll preview what January has in store for Who fans and the world of entertainment as a whole, as well as this month's best release and my Top 5 Most Anticipated Releases of the next, and the rest of my Most Anticipated 2012 Films list. That's an ambitious list of articles that may not get finished for a couple of weeks, but I thought I'd give you a good overview of what's to come in the early days of 2012 (still feels weird saying that)!

Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe Review (4.5/5)

Your enjoyment of The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe could quite possibly have depended on just what you expect from Doctor Who nowadays: do you want a complex time-orientated thriller packed with deceptive twists and special effects setpieces, or a more basic yet emotional story of love and loyalty, two feelings which lie at the heart of the show's core appeal? I've always liked a bit of both, but tend to veer more towards the latter as I had in Series Six with great episodes like The Doctor's Wife, The Girl Who Waited and The God Complex, and so in this respect I loved Steven Moffat's festive special. Matt Smith truly shone in his role as the 'Caretaker', a mad and whimsical character who was determined to provide the Best Christmas Ever for the Arwells after their heartbreaking loss of a father figure to the Second World War. Claire Skinner was a great temporary companion as Madge Atwell, still a little overdramatic at times for my taste, yet ultimately uplifting in her final moments where she tells her old protector to find his friends once more rather than (supposedly) let them think he was dead. Before I get on to the beautiful denounement with its cameos from Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, let me get back to the episode's plot: eerrmm...Moffat has often had a tendency for convoluted time-bending storylines, yet this was not the case here. Instead, we got a plot which doesn't really make much sense if you think too hard about it, something to do with the Doctor taking the Arwells to an icy forest where the trees have souls, which have created a building containing creepy wooden people who will initiate a halo ring relay on a human's head that will allow the tree souls to escape being harvested by a robot from Andronanzi Minor- I'm sure I wasn't the only Peter Davison fan who loved that reference to Caves- and which Madge is deemed strong enough to put on due to her being a woman. At this point, she piloted the building through the time vortex, shining like a star which eventually guided her seemingly deceased husband home and saved his life. Yep, in reality it makes very little sense, but to be honest, it's Christmas, and given what Russell T Davies did in some of his festive romps, I'll give the Moff the pleasure of going crazy at this one time a year when he can still provide such chilling, atmospheric and ultimately tear-jerking moments in the space of just an hour. Farris Blackburn, a new director for Who, steps on to the scene with a lot of experience underneath his belt and does wonders with the episode's tone, providing a gothic and edgy adventure that, while far apart from CS Lewis' magical novel that merely inspires the ep's title, feels totally at home in this brilliant science-fiction drama adventure. I think that the episode was lacking a little depth underneath its comedic surface, and guest star Bill Bailey wasn't exactly put to as good use as Michael Gambon and Katherine Jenkins were last year and Claire is here, and these gripes do hold this back from being as successful a special as A Christmas Carol (that was always going to be a hard one to beat), but as the first episode of Series 7, The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe is a warm romp sure to capture the hearts of families everywhere. Now, if only we didn't have to wait until Autumn for the first half of the next run...

Merlin: The Sword In The Stone Part Two Review (3.5/5)

There's no doubting that this fourth series of Merlin has been by far its strongest and most consistent run- the various twists and turns leading us much closer to the famed Arthurian lore than the past three seasons had as a whole have ensured that it's been one hell of a ride for fans and newcomers alike, especially with the newfound cinematic direction and increased budget for special effects helping things move along smoothly. It's a shame, then, that as with Doctor Who's season finale The Wedding of River Song in October, our expectations couldn't be fully matched by the magical drama's The Sword In The Stone Part Two this week. The episode sees Merlin and Arthur escape their pursuers with the help of the Great Dragon, only for our intrepid young warlock to be forced into killing the deceptive Agravaine and his allies, and to convince the once and future King of Camelot to pull the fabled Sword from its Stone. This pivotal moment in the legend was given a neat spin here with the help of Merlin's magic, even if the rushed running time of the episode (you can't help but think this would have been better suited as a one-hour special) meant that the scene couldn't be directed in such a way as to portray the total relevance of the moment in Arthur's story arc. We then had the Knights storm the castle, dispatching Morgana's allies, and ultimately witnessing the beautifully rendered marraige of Gwen to her betrothed monarch. Once again, this vital segment felt a little pressed for time, especially given the bonkers cliffhanger that followed it- how was anyone who missed the story where Merlin rescued the baby dragon meant to see its rescuing of Morgana as a bit of a deus ex machina moment, pulled out of nowhere?- but we can at least see it did wrap up the romance arc of this season nicely, and bodes well for Arthur and Gwen's relationship in Series Five. However, like many other fans I can't help thinking that the focus of the programme right now has been shifted a little too far away from the adventures of Camelot's secret wizard: Colin Morgan was clearly loving his costume changes from a dark killer of his enemies (Merlin commited an action here which I hope gets its ramifications next year, as he and Gaius were not given screen time to discuss it) to a raggedy old man deviously plotting Morgana's downfall in the dungeons, and yet for the majority the episode was focused on Arthur Pendragon himself. Within the context of this finale, I'd say that was probably the right move, but much of the latter half of this season has been centred on the Arthur/Gwen tension rather than Merlin's need to keep his secret safe, and the stupid reintroduction of Aithusa at the last minute after no mentions whatsoever of his rescue in the ten episodes that followed it was testament to how the show's writers seem to have lost their way a little in keeping the main theme of the show present. I still enjoyed The Sword In The Stone Part Two, but that's all I can really say of it: it lacked the urgency of Part One, the scares of season opener The Darkest Hour, and the justice given to pinnacle Arthurian scenes (in this case Uther's death) in The Wicked Day, and as such while it can be considered the best of the Merlin season finales so far, that's hardly much of a compliment, and within this golden age for the show it's not going to be one of the episodes I remember most fondly for its quality.

Saturday, 24 December 2011


Advent Calendar 2011: Day Twenty-Four

How is it that a novel published in 1843, over one hundred and fifty years ago, can have had such a profound influence on our Christmas culture? That's exactly the case with Charles Dickens' wonderful piece A Christmas Carol, and yet when you read inbetween the lines (pun fully intended) it shouldn't really come as any surprise that this festive story has stood the test of time so diligently. In Carol, we follow the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a crabby businessman who has hated December 25th ever since he was a teenager. Scrooge has inherited the legacy of Robert Marley, helming a business franchise that dominates a fair portion of London's population, and as such he couldn't be happer with his stance in life. Except, this stance is what will ultimately drive him towards his death, and see him unmourned by those who knew him simply because he never showed any compassion towards them to warrant it. To show this tragic benefactor the error of his ways, three Ghosts of Christmas time must appear to him, taking him to various points in his life (and death) to shock him enough that he will change his ways in time for Christmas Day. This immensely uplifting tale of time travel would have been seen as amongst the most innovative yarns of Dickens' time, vastly different to any works by Allan-Poe, Bronte, Austen or any other authors in the nineteenth century. Indeed, the unique way in which the narrative is presented by Dickens has inspired countless literary works to this day, not to mention a host of equally striking adaptations of the novel. Yes, from parodies like The Muppets Christmas Carol to modern reinterpretations like Doctor Who's casting of Michael Gambon as the evil Kazran Sardick, forced by our favourite Time Lord through complete shifting of his past timelines to fall in love and save the lives of hundreds of people when he would never have dared do so on the Christmas Eve night before. Each new version of A Christmas Carol still owes a debt of gratitude to Dickens for its overall storyline, based around the original novel to an extent as its plot was so strong on its own, and remains so today. I find Jim Henson's Muppets take particularly memorable in its second act, portraying the Ghost of Christmas Present as the most jovial of fellows, a spirit who utterly warms Scrooge's heart, reigniting passions and loves the loathed scorn had not felt for too long, and in doing so opening the door for his final transformation into a man bent on helping everyone who he came across, knowing that this was the only way to truly repent for his sins. Michael Caine is perfect in his role as the protagonist(?), bringing across Scrooge's moral transformation over the course of the It Feels Like Christmas number, only to save his best moments for last as the Ghost of Christmas Future beckons to remind Ebenezer just what fate awaits him beyond the grave should he not become the man he needs to be. The Marley brothers- you've got to love the script writers' daring to change the plot to suit the hilarious, mocking Statler and Waldorf- had done this earlier, showing Scrooge the chains forged to cast him into the pits of hell should he not make amends, but this was a mere shock tactic, a foreboding message to weaken his barred defenses and allow the spirits to weave their way into his sleep and force him to accept the beauty of Christmas. I think that as soon as the Ghost of Christmas Present departs, Scrooge realises what he must do if he is to be redeemed, as we see him in the concluding Thankful Heart of Henson's musical, but Dickens (and Henson) pulls one further twist in the tale when we believe all might be saved, throwing in one more Ghost to allow Scrooge a glimpse of the man he could have become had he continued down the path of 'Bah, hambug'. By the time Scrooge sees his name on the tombstone in the graveyard, the realisation of the consequences of his past life shatters any possibility of going back, sealing his fate as a loved, charitable hero in the eyes of Londoners, and thus finally confirming his ultimate redemption. I don't think I can possibly recall a more poignant story than this to tell at Christmas, or quite possibly on any day of the year. The author of this wonderful festive treat could not have known that he had stumbled onto such a literary masterpiece when the novel was in fact one of his most brief, and yet on the bicentenary of his birth, next year A Christmas Carol will be one of an infinite number of reasons that we should commemorate and always remember the life and works of Charles Dickens forever more. And on that note, I wish you all a good night, and a very Merry Christmas!

2011 Awards: The Story So Far

Just before we start to head on to looking to Christmas and my Most Anticipated Films of 2012, I thought it might be a good idea to round-up the announced 2011 awards I've awarded to films and games so far. So, without further ado...
3. SUPER 8
11. PAUL
2. HALO 4
17. THE WiiU

My Top 3 Most Anticipated Games Of 2012

You can tell it's certainly going to be quite a year when Rockstar's new Grand Theft Auto isn't top of the list, but I don't think we've quite seen enough of GTA V yet for me to make up my mind as to how excited I am about the game. Don't get me wrong, though- GTA IV stands as one of this console generation's greatest acheivements, and I can't wait to see how Rockstar North our current global recession with their satirical outlook on life, not to mention how the already excellent graphical engine will have improved since 2008 and what directions the storytelling can take in 2012. Game of the Year? If it isn't delayed until 2013, then Los Santos may just be in with a chance of becoming the most immersive game world of the year, and if so then this stands a big chance of sweeping the award!
#2: HALO 4
Who wouldn't be excited about the Master Chief's return to our screens? Away since 2007, the Chief is back to discover an ancient Forerunner planet's secrets in the first instalment of a new trilogy, and I can't wait to see why his armour has changed, what the effects of Cortana going rampant are going to be, and best of all how the classic Halo gampeplay has improved under 343 Industries five years on from Bungie's Halo 3. Expect Halo 4 to be the ultimate Xbox 360 release of the year, perhaps the last great title of its generation.
 For me, though, the title of my Most Anticipated Game Of 2012 couldn't go to any other game but Mass Effect 3. BioWare look to have crafted a masterful climax to this classic trilogy of science-fiction adventures, bringing meaningful conclusions to each of our personal stories in the universe by depicting the useful or dire consequences of our past actions while saving the galaxy, but all the while shifting the focus on the refined shooter gameplay to appeal to a wider audience. Don't worry, the RPG elements of the Mass Effect universe are still going to remain fully intact for those who crave them, ensuring that this should be the next huge time-filler after Skyrim, however I have a feeling that by throwing in more epic setpiece battles against the Reapers and working to provide a stellar multiplayer component that feeds into the main campaign, BioWare has the best chance of all of giving us the Game of the Year come March! Then again, I've been wrong before...

Film Of The Year 2011: Editor's Choice

It's always great to have surprise releases like Skyrim that weren't on my Most Anticipated list for 2011 turn out to be some of the year's best work, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes took me aback on a whole different level altogether. I hadn't been a fan of the Apes franchise before now, yet in Rise I found an utterly captivating engagement with the events surrounding GenSys and the accidentally intelligent primate Caesar. Unlike most movie teams, 20th Century Fox allowed the writers to fully develop Caesar's own rise from a tortured captive to a revolutionary leader, making for a mystifying experience whereby the audience is forced to fall in love with the animal, beautifully brought to life by CGI and Andy Serkis (who really deserves an Oscar for his facial work here, it has to be seen to be believed!), so that by the moving conclusion to his character arc, we are rooting completely for his faction yet still brought close to tears as his human friend realised that "Caesar is home." and accepted that they must part ways. That there were even segments which relied on subtitles to show us what the apes were saying with their use of sign language was a daring move on director Robert Wyatt's part, but it's one that totally pays off, and goes some way to making Caesar's actions seem all the more apt and justified later on. Wyatt, James Franco and Andy Serkis have essentially kick-started a huge new franchise with an emotive, action-packed bang in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a masterclass in filmic storytelling that teaches even the greats like Yates (Deathly Hallows) and Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) how it's done. Take note, because as long as the sequel sheds some of its little predictable 'tough American' scenes and maintains a focus on its titular primates, we may have stumbled onto something every bit as successful as the adventures of the Boy Who Lived and the Fellowship of the Ring! So, there you have it, my Film of the Year award goes to Rise of the Planet of the Apes- now it's up to the producers, directors and actors of 2012 to top it!...

Friday, 23 December 2011

Top 20 Most Anticipated Games Of 2012: #6-#4

We're coming towards the end of this huge list of great titles on their way next year, and just before we reach my Top 3 Most Anticipated Games, let's have a look at those in the fourth, fifth and sixth positions, each promising innovative new experiences for us to feel and adore in the next twelve months...
#6: HITMAN: ABSOLUTION- IQ Sofware have a big task convincing me that the Hitman franchise can actually work as a flowing stealth game experience, as previous instalments have been rather hap-hazard in their encouragement of becoming a 'silent assassin'. That said, the first 20-minute look we got at Absolution at E3 2011 gave me an incredible sense of excitement towards the project, so I can't wait to see whether the developer can properly deliver with this Bourne-esque sequel!
#5: BIOSHOCK: INFINITE- In the space of just a few months, BioShock: Infinite has gone from being off my radar completely to becoming one of my most anticipated plays of the next year. Why? Irrational Games seem to be genuinely trying to appeal to a more mainstream audience here with bigger setpieces and a marginally lighter tone, and given all we've seen so far I'd say that approach is really going to work in their favour as long as things don't get too linear with Elizabeth's reality-shifting powers along the way. If Irrational can keep things fresh constantly, then expect a real Game of the Year contender here.
#4: TOMB RAIDER- Ever since Crystal Dynamics unveiled their breathtaking new vision of gaming's sexiest female hero at E3 earlier this year, I've been desperate to see how this intriguing origins story of Lara Croft will play out, and the game having been delayed nearly a year to tighten things up has not helped at all. So long as there are no pacing issues along the way and Tomb Raider boasts a little more replay value than Legend, Anniversary and Underworld, this could be the best reboot a franchise has ever had, and above all an absolutely fantastic platformer!

The Best Films Of 2011: #2

I don't think that when I first saw The King's Speech back in January, it resonated with me how quite so profound an impact it would have on my views and expectations of every other movie to come in 2011. Yet here we are, and twelve months on it stands as my favourite film (but one) of the entire year. That's quite a hallmark indeed, considering I'd been worried that the hype surrounding the film due to its historical relevance would turn out to be its undoing. I needn't have worried, though: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush stole my heart with their beautiful portrayals of Bertie and Lionel Logue, establishing a palpable chemistry from their first scene together and developing it throughout to bring the film to a tense yet uplifting climax by the time of the titular speech. Director Tom Hooper clearly showed an utmost sincerity in his depiction of Britain on the brink of war, pondering on the traditions and tribulations of royalty without going so far as to mock them to the point of ignorance, striking a delicate balance unheard of for some time now. There is a unique respect shown here for the film's contextual source, respect which ultimately makes this such a poignant and apt piece for a society which in itself is now trying to overcome its greatest challenge, thrust into the limelight with its recession and forced to resort to unorthodox means to resolve their financial problems. Perhaps Hooper, Firth, Rush and the all-star cast (the majority of which are put to good use in the plotline, although some cameos feel a little forced for the sake of celebrity recognition) had this in mind as they worked to bring the story of King George VI to the big screen, perhaps not. No matter what their stance, this stands as a beautiful landmark of modern film, an intense drama that brings one of the most amazing untold stories of British history to the forefront, and rightly so.

Advent Calendar 2011: Day Twenty-Three

There's just over a day until the biggest twenty four hours of the year begin, but that still means there's time for you to hastily add a couple of great Blu-Ray releases to your list to round off your festive day. Here are my top recommendations of the stunning discs that will light up your December 25th...
AVATAR- Easily demo-worthy material, James Cameron's epic sci-fi has never looked better than it does in high definition, and it only leads us to garner more excitement for the big sequels in 2014 and '15!
STAR WARS: EPISODES IV-VI- Don't bother with the rubbish/average/decent prequels (in that order) or the hefty Complete Saga boxset unless you're a true hardcore fan of the series, but definitely ask for this great set of the original classics. The HD realisation of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi has a distinctly 'retro' vibe, yet that actually adds to the overall overwhelming impact of how staggering an acheivement these three films were for the movie industry in the 70s and 80s.
HARRY POTTER: THE COMPLETE 8-FILM COLLECTION- This will set your giver back a good £40. However, to its credit, this huge set contains some of the best fantasy films of recent times, each looking wonderful in high-def and boasting its own set of interesting special features on their respective productions. It's been quite a ride, so do yourself a favour and enter the queue again, one last time...
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES- One of this year's best films rendered stunningly, and handed a host of brilliant extras to take you behind-the-scenes of the Apes lore, the incredible transformation of Andy Serkis into the emotional protagonist Caesar and best of all a mind-boggling scene breakdown of the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge battle! A true hit for the ages.
SUPER 8- That train crash. In high-definition. That is all.
MERLIN: SERIES 4 VOLUME 1- This BBC drama seems to have entered a golden age, providing us with its best run of magical episodes yet, so why not take a look back at the great opening six instalments of the fourth season? Here you'll see Merlin and Arthur face their darkest hours, the death of Uther, the birth of a baby dragon and the infamy of an old enemy in a stellar bunch of adventures that really set the standard for everything the show has to offer next! And long may the successes continue this weekend and into Series 5...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Advent Calendar 2011: Day Twenty-Two

It's not exactly warm festive news, but this one at least has relation to our idyllic hopes of fluffy snow embracing Britain on Christmas Day. EA's upcoming snowboard racer SSX has been delayed a few weeks from its early February release to ensure a maximum focus can be placed on producing the highest quality title for fans of the franchise. The new entry in the much-loved franchise features epic 'Deadly Descents' boss battles against other rivals and even oncoming avalanches for the player to partake in, sure to mix up the tried and tested racing gameplay and keep things more fresh than FIFA and COD ever do! SSX will now release in the USA on February 28th, and in the rest of the world (UK included) on March 2nd 2012.

Opinion: Why Rayman Origins Is 2011's Most Overlooked Game

I'll freely admit that when I placed Rayman Origins (9/10) in the bottom third of my Top 15 Best Games of 2011 list, it was mainly because I had only played the first few levels of the beautiful platformer and so couldn't properly determine its overall quality. Having now ploughed some hours into the game, I can now state without doubt that this is the best platforming game I've ever seen on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 (LittleBigPlanet included!), a stunning turn by Ubisoft that puts nearly every other platformer released this generation to shame. Central to this is the wonderful art style- a masterclass in how to get 'kiddie animation' right, Origins employs overwhelming vistas of deep beauty that often threatens to be the death of you when you're busy gaping at it rather than playing it. On top of that, though, there's a great whimsical soundtrack, a shallow yet nostalgic plot and best of all dozens of innovative levels that harken back in terms of creativity to the 16-bit days of Super Mario Bros and Sonic The Hedgehog; yep, it's really that good! Why, then, has Rayman Origins barely sold 500,000 copies since its release back in November, when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 shipped three times this on its opening day alone? There are a few reasons why I think Origins is sadly one of the year's most overlooked titles, and I'll give my own thoughts on each of these...
RELEASE WINDOW- Quite why Ubisoft thought it would be a good idea to release their new Rayman game, a risky reboot likely to alienate much of its hardcore audience with its cutesy visuals, in such a busy season as Q3/Q4 when Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Gears of War 3, Forza Motorsport 4, Need for Speed: The Run, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 3, Zelda and so many other big titles were on their way is beyond me. Had the publisher either delayed the game to a Spring 2012 release window (this for me would have seemed the best tactic) or released it in the rather bleak Summer of Gaming when the best we got was L.A Noire (8.5/10) is beyond me! At the very least, the publisher should have sensed something was wrong when they were releasing Assassin's Creed: Revelations (9/10), which while in many ways the weaker game (though not completely) boasted a greater fanbase appeal. Had Ubisoft delayed or moved forward Origins' release, I think their sales margin could have been far greater than it turned out.
THE VISUALS- This was always going to be a sore point: games with such wonderful animated graphics are often restrained to the Xbox Live Network and PSN due to many gamers' seeming animosity towards them, so Origins was undoubtedly taking a risk in marketing itself as a full retail product.I reckon £40 is a totally worthwhile investment for such a finely-tuned, stunning title, but the graphical style may well have convinced many potential buyers not to part with their hard-earned cash.
CRITICS' LACK OF ATTENTION- Rayman Origins holds an average score of 91% on Metacritic- that makes it the eighth highest scoring game on their list for the last 90 days, which encapsulate all of the big Q3/Q4 releases. That's a truly impressive feat given the nature of that daunting list of greats, and something Ubisoft should be immensely proud of right now, a definite indicator of the need for a sequel if there ever was one. Still, while I'm glad Origins was recieved so well critically, I still think it deserves much more attention than it got- for example, its 9/10 review was relegated to a half-page in the Official Xbox Magazine, almost seeming an afterthought in the flood of recent games. Had critics really emphasised what a breakthrough Origins is for 360/PS3 platforming and encouraged more hardocre gamers to buy it, its sales margin could have increased dramatically, and we wouldn't be in this sorry situation today.
SLIM MARKETING- But most criminal of all was Ubisoft's apparent lack of care for any kind of marketing campaign for Origins. We got just a few posters and demos for the game, something shared by average titles like Dead Island, RAGE and Spider-Man: Edge of Time, none of which the developer should ever have to associate with having produced a product which is such a league of its own compared to them. If and when Ubisoft commisions a sequel for release in the near future (hopefully), they need to seriously rethink their marketing campaign, as Origins deserved so much more!
So, there you have it- my reasons why Rayman Origins appears to have been overlooked by the vast majority of gamers. I encourage you now to at the very least give this one a rental in this upcoming brief time of relative quiet for the world of video gaming, because despite feeling like it's over a little too soon (more because of the sheer enjoyment you'll get out of every moment) and like there are many more innovations still to come, it really is one of the most fun and striking games I've played for a long, long time! Need proof of its brilliance? Just watch the beautifully rendered video below...

Sledgehammer Developing New Call Of Duty

File:CallofDutyLogo.svgSledgehammer Games have confirmed that they are hard at work on a new instalment in the Call of Duty franchise. The studio was previously working on a third-person action-adventure title to add to the series, but decided it wasn't as strong as Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 3 and so helped their fellow developer to tighten up the online experience in time for its release. Now, though, it appears it's high time for the developer to go solo, as they've posted a recruitment form looking for someone "to help bring the online experience to a new level, involved in the creation of multiplayer game modes and online community features for an unannounced high-end console title." Sounds like COD to me and most of the fanbase who already are speculating what Sledgehammer will give us, but I'd wager we won't hear details on this project until Treyarch release Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 next November so as to keep the marketing for the latest game in this seemingly endless franchise stays consistent.

Sherlock Soundtrack Confirmed For Release

Looking forward to the return of Steven Moffat's Sherlock in just over a week's time? It gets better- Silva Screen Records have announced that they will release a soundtrack of the music comprising Series One in January too! That may sound a little OTT, but believe me when I say that Silva's track record on the Doctor Who soundtracks is above and beyond what most brand expansions give us. So we can expect tracks from A Study In Pink, The Blind Banker and The Great Game to make up the extensive setlist, with some commentaries from Moffat and co-writer Mark Gatiss and composers David Arnold and Michael Price in a nice booklet contained in the CD. Sherlock- Original Television Soundtrack reaches music retailers and online download services on January 30th 2012.

LEGO Lord of the Rings Range Announced

The LEGO company has confirmed that next year will see the release of several Lord of the Rings-themed sets in its building range. These will be based around several key events in the JRR Tolkien novels and their acclaimed film adaptations helmed by Peter Jackson, as well as the storylines of the two Hobbit prequels on their way in 2012 and 2013. I'd expect some Fellowship vs. Orc battlefields, a Mount Doom recreation and more exciting setpieces to be recreated in brick form by next Summer, and with any luck a video-game tie in to coincide with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey next November is inevitable. If not, because with both LEGO City Stories and LEGO Batman 2 on their way in 2012 things might get too crowded for Travellers' Tales as they did this year, so perhaps the build-up can really start towards The Hobbit: There And Back Again in 2013 with the game!

UK Film Charts: December 12th-18th

As per usual for the Christmas season, the box office has played host to a real toss-up of popular sequels and animations these past few weeks, and this has come to a nice conclusion with the release of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (4.5/5) last Friday. No other new films hit cinemas last week, so Game's victory was fairly assured, but nevertheless it more than deserves it as it's one of the best releases of the season! Bring on Mission Impossible, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and of course 2012...
7. HAPPY FEET TWO (3.5/5)
4. PUSS IN BOOTS (3/5)

First Prometheus Trailer Released

Ridley Scott's sci-fi franchise Alien has spawned a wealth of inspired filmic legends since the first film's initial release in 1979, and Scott looks to be returning the favour with his exciting new prequel Prometheus. Set decades before Alien, the flick sees the crew of the ship Prometheus in search of the secrets of humanity's beginnings, only to stumble upon a secret which if exposed to Earth could mean their race's very extinction. The first trailer for the film has been released, and while it's great to see such a tense and dark tone, what's perhaps more impressive is the various homages it pays to the original trailer campaign for Alien- I've put the main video parallel below the trail- with the likes of its logo appearing bit by bit and face hugging creatures appearing in both. Though this isn't set to star Scott's infamous xenomorphs, I reckon it could turn out to be one of the best films released in the next twelve months...Prometheus hits cinemas on June 8th, 2012.


The Best Films Of 2011: #4

I've said it before and I'll say it again- I don't think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the perfect conclusion this historic film franchise should have rightly recieved from Warner Brothers. Despite the overriding presence of the events of the Battle of Hogwarts, the script seemed to place a little too much focus on the titular Boy Who Lived, leaving little room for the tragedies of the war or the adventures of some of the other main characters (Ron, Hermionie, Luna etc) to be explored even in its hefty two-hour running time. That said, Part 2 still remains one of my favourite films of the year because although it doesn't wrap things up as neatly as I might have liked, it does wrap 'em up damn well. Any misconceptions about the cast could be fully dislodged here, as every member new and old put in their all to give the most convincing portrayals of their respective characters as possible, really adding to the total empathy and immersion created by the amazing computer-generated imagery of the world around them. The much-vaunted battle between Harry and Lord Voldemort was a particular highlight in terms of effects, yet scenes such as Harry's visit to Platform 3/4 beyond the grave and then later in the laugh-inducing epilogue were just as memorable. So while the plot could have been tightened up in places (Could we not have seen the deaths of the Lupins? It's more a fault of the novel than the film itself), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 can at least be seen as the most faithful novel adaptation of the year, a damn good film to boot. It's a shame this isn't Oscar-guaranteed material, but I think it's safe to say that the Boy Wizard's final adventure is one that nobody will ever forget.

The Best Films Of 2011: #3

SUPER 8 (10/10)- Although the trailer campaign for Super 8 seemed to tease a relatively mild sci-fi adventure, what we eventually got from Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams this Summer was a fantastic, moving tale of love and loyalty, quite possibly the biggest sleeper hit of 2011. At the heart of Super 8's inert appeal was its stellar cast of youngsters: Joel Courtney stole the show in his portrayal of protagonist Joe Lamb, but each of the kids in the gang filming with a version of the titular camera at the site of a train crash had their own individual charm and lovability to behold throughout the movie's various setpieces and its quieter, more poignant moments. I could argue that the film's storyline wouldn't have felt misplaced in a 1980s or 90s science-fiction film, yet that actually worked in Abrams' favour rather than his detriment, allowing for a flick that felt like a true homage to the good old days where CGI was kept as an additional bonus of the viewing experience rather than a mandatory trigger of events. Believe it or not, once upon a time filmmakers had to rely on their plotlines more than their special effects (what would Michael Bay have done?!?), and in doing this Abrams and Spielberg have given us a true gem this year. Super 8 is not only one of the best films of 2011; in my opinion, it stands as one of the best science-fiction movies of all time. I wouldn't be surprised if you missed it first time around, but I'd advise you to remedy your mistake by getting it on DVD or Blu-Ray ASAP!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Ricky Gervais Announces New TV Projects

What with his new comedy sitcom Life's Too Short having just finished airing on BBC Two, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Ricky Gervais might give himself a break over the Christmas holidays from planning new television material. Apparently, though, that's not how Gervais' mind works: instead, he has announced via his Twitter account that he and co-writer Stephen Merchant have two new projects in the works. The first of these is a special episode of An Idiot Abroad titled The Short Way Round, involving Karl Pilkington travelling by bicycle across an unannounced country with dwarf Warwick Davis (star of Life's Too Short, Return of the Jedi and Harry Potter) in the basket of the bike. Gervais' other project is a second season of Life's Too Short, which will follow on from Warwick's character having been left to sleep in the drawer of the spare room of his business assistant's crowded house, trying to recover his relationship with Amy and earn money in new gigs. Gervais tweeted: "FAQ: Second Series of Life's Too Short Planned for Spring 2013; An Idiot Abroad: The Short Way Round planned for end of 2012." I'll keep you posted on developments regarding both new programmes as they come!

The Best Films Of 2011: #6/#5

#6: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (9.5/10)- Matt Damon and Emily Blunt totally took me aback in March with their thrilling destiny-orientated adventure, The Adjustment Bureau. I was not expecting to see such a deep, layered and intricate science-fiction film so early on in the year, let alone boasting such a great cast full of big talents on top of its masterfully crafted storyline. It would have been great if the team behind the movie could have taken a few more creative risks in terms of the twisting plot (more Inception-style turns, perhaps?) and the staggering special effects, but nevertheless this is easily one of 2011's must-see films, a sleeper hit that never really got the commercial or critical attention it deserved.
#5: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (9.5/10)- First Class, on the other hand, recieved a lot of attention as an anticipated prequel to the tired X-Men franchise, and thankfully Matthew Vaughn and his talented team of rising stars managed to pull off a corker, a potential reboot for the series. More than ever before, fans could actually empathise with the plight of the mutants as they were discriminated against by the humans, to the point that by the time the inevitable split between the titular heroes and the Brotherhood came, we could understand both sides' reasons for moving in the direction they did. All of this, combined with the great FX and historical background implementation, gave us a film that- for the first time since X2: United (2007)- could be proud to hold the X-Men name despite a slightly melodramatic tone being present at certain key points. Yes, in X-Men: First Class Vaughn has effectively given this franchise the kick up the backside it needed to get going again, hence why The Wolverine and a sequel are already heading into production!

Advent Calendar 2011: Day Twenty-One

Wow, are there really only four days until Christmas? Apparently so...in the spirit of goodwill, I thought I'd post the excellent trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The upcoming film is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, chronicling Bilbo Baggins' quest to reclaim the stolen treasure of the Dwarves from the evil dragon Smaug, and his first meeting with the creature Gollum that brings him into possession of a single golden ring that will determine the fate of Middle Earth in years to come. I won't say anymore, other than that you can expect looks at the songs of the Dwarves, Gandalf's role to play in the film, and a cameo from the ring and Gollum himself, amongst many other intriguing moments! The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits cinemas on December 14th, 2012.