OS Cover Image

OS Cover Image

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Fast Five Review (3/5)

If you're wondering why the article header dubs the latest Fast And Furious as Fast Five as opposed to the marketing campaign's simple use of the franchise title with the number 5, it's because the film still refers to itself as Fast Five, so fair's fair. Most series tend to lose their energy and vigour by their fifth entry, but one thing I can credit this for is keeping up its unpredictability and general likeability throughout, featuring a host of forgettable yet brilliant characters and an unrealistic yet completely thrilling plot. Make no doubt about it, those two elements are indeed the double-edged swords that hold it back from being anything but a shallow summer blockbuster, but by damn will you have a good time watching it! The premise is simply that three of the FBI's Most Wanted escape to Rio, only to find a deadly new job waiting for them involving corrupt presidents and millions of dollars. I could stick that scenario with any series of action-adventure films and immediatedly know what to expect, however the writers here play on the knowledge that we've heard all this before by providing some unexpected and oft hilarious twists on the formula- think The A-Team mixed with Starsky & Hutch. Ultimately, if I spoilt the main setpieces of the film (undeniably the best parts) for you I'd be taking away the only core element that makes Fast Five worth your cash, so all I can say is that if you want a action-packed, relatively fast paced romp to start the Summer of Film off with a bang, you could do far worse than this.

Friday, 29 April 2011

New Assassin's Creed Title Revealed?

Ready to find out just what the next instalment in the Assassin's Creed franchise might entail? The full reveal of developer Ubisoft Montreal's next entry is coming in the May issue of GameInformer (out on the 10th), but it turns out that the name of the game might have been leaked a week early. According to IGN, the image you see on this post is the logo for what will be called Assassin's Creed: Revelations, probably set for release in November. We don't know anything else, and this may even refer to a handheld release or comic, but the title makes sense considering that Desmond and the player were left with dozens of questions at the end of last year's hit sequel Brotherhood. Expect much more on this in the next fortnight, and I'll be back with all the info on May 27th!

Take That Song Confirmed For First Class

X-Men: First Class is definitely looking like one of the more interesting superhero films out this Summer, and the announcement that Take That's new single Love Love will be tied in to the release just increases the anticipation. A prequel to the main trilogy, First Class focuses on Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Lenshrr (Michael Fassbender) discovering their powers, meeting and forming a team of mutants who must fight the Hellfire Club and prevent nuclear Armageddon. The new instalment, a reboot of sorts, will be here on June 1st- catch the new trailer below!

Need For Speed: The Run Announced

It seems that EA can barely go a month without reminding fans a new Need For Speed game is on its way, case in point the announcement that Need For Speed: The Run will retail for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and all other major platforms this November. As per usual, that places NFS directly on the radar of November's other annual franchise Call Of Duty, reportedly set to make a huge comeback this Winter with a third entry in the Modern Warfare storyline developed by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games, but since Hot Pursuit fared quite well up against Black Ops last Christmas this one shouldn't have too much to worry about. Details on the plot of this new racer are scarce, but the game's title and a leaked trailer indicate that players will have "the race of their life" but also need to "race for their life" too. I would, however, be interested to see how well The Run goes down with critics and hardcore fans of NFS after having two prior instalments [Hot Pursuit and Shift 2: Unleashed] release just months within each other- can the latest entry keep up the energy and innovation? Need For Speed: The Run is set for release on November 18th.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

New Doctor Who Prequel Coming

Another mini-episode of Doctor Who will air after the broadcast of Day Of The Moon at approximately 6.45pm, we can reveal. With a running time of two minutes, the story acts as a prelude to the third episode of Season Six, The Curse Of The Black Spot, which takes place on a 1696 pirate ship haunted by a strange ghost called the Siren. We don't know yet what the prequel will entail, but the first prequel gave us a glimpse of the Oval Office and a girl's mysterious calls to President Nixon, so expect the dilemma facing the Doctor, Amy and Rory in Curse to at least be touched upon. As if that weren't enough, spoiler-free reviews of this week's conclusion to the 1960s USA two-parter have revealed that we can expect another big cliffhanger here to leave more questions open as to the nature of the main story arc, so this Saturday evening will probably provoke a lot of discussion! Day Of The Moon airs on BBC One this Saturday at 6pm.

First Deathly Hallows Part 2 Trailer Released

If you weren't excited for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two already, then the first full-length trailer should be more than enough to make July 15th seem like an age away. Consisting exclusively of clips from the epic series finale, the video shows us Harry's quest to find a Horcrux in Gringotts' Bank and starts to paint a picture of what the shattering Battle Of Hogwarts will look like as the fate of the wizarding world rests in its inhabitants giving the Boy Who Lived enough time to return to the fabled school and discover a way to defeat Lord Voldemort. Can victory be achieved? After seven films of waiting, you should be fairly capable of answering that yourself, but rest assured that there will be plenty of heartbreaking twists and tragic demises before the war comes to an end! Deathly Hallows: Part Two releases on the 15th of July, and you can catch my exclusive review on that day.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Glee: Original Song Review (3.5/5)

For the second week in a row, Glee wasn't as good as what had come before, and yet for the second week running that didn't matter! Original Song took New Directions to Regionals, but that the same competition was the finale of Season One and yet comes just a few episodes after Sectionals this year does make the event seem more than a bit predictable. In addition, while I always complement the show on its inventive and frequent uses of excellent cover tracks from famous artists, there was a sense of lacking narrative this week as the programme strived to pack in as many big numbers as possible in the space of an hour. However I must admit that all the songs on offer were choreographed and performed brilliantly, especially Loser Like Me, a track totally exclusive to Glee that I look forward to seeing in the new album. There were some developments in the plot, though, such as the glee club's progression to Nationals, Kurt and Blaine entering a relationship and Quinn's intentions to become Prom Queen starting to become apparent to her innocent boyfriend Finn, but all of this could have been found in other stories for all Original Song cared as said developments were dispensed with as quickly as they came. That aside, another strong instalment, but here's hoping that the writers find a balance between the music and the drama in the six remaining episodes of the season.

Smallville: Finale Synopsis Revealed

It's hard to believe American viewers have just three weeks left until Smallville reaches its end, but to hammer in the harsh truth we now have the synopsis for the last episode, Finale. Also, you should be able to see two fairly important images to the left, the first of Michael Rosenbaum's Lex Luthor meeting Clark one last time in the ruins of the Luthor mansion after the former's resurrection, the second of Clark and Lois at their wedding (but exec Kelly Souders warns us "It is a very long walk down the aisle"). Make of these what you will, but until Finale airs on May 13th and likely sometime this Autumn in the UK here's the story brief: "The story of Clark Kent culminates in this epic two-hour series finale as Clark takes the last step to becoming the Man of Steel. With surprise guest appearances, nods to the first few seasons of the show and Michael Rosenbaum's return as Lex Luthor, this final episode wraps up a decade-long story following one man's journey to becoming the world's greatest superhero..." My reviews of Kent, Booster, Dominion, Prophecy and Finale should be here sometime around half term (May 27th-June 4th)!

Mario 3DS Set For Reveal At E3

The new Super Mario game revealed in February at the Game Developers' Conference will be officially debuted at E3 in two months time, Satoru Iwata has confirmed today. Iwata, vice president of Nintendo, said "We are planning to introduce a new title from the Super Mario series which is a Mario action game in 3D space, that we will reveal at E3 this year." In a press release following the game's initial première at GDC, Nintendo claimed the next instalment would "fulfill the dream of video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto to bring true depth and distance into the game's mechanics", and that aim will hopefully be realised by the power of the 3DS handheld it will exclusively release on later this year. Check out the first news and videos when On-Screen returns on June 16th!

UK Gaming Charts: April 18th-24th

There really is justice in the world- on its week of release, Portal 2 has taken top spot in our video games charts. If you're wondering why I'm so enthusiastic about the sudden turn of events, clearly you didn't see my review of the title last week where I awarded the stunning puzzle sequel a much deserved 10/10, and you should definitely check that out to find out just why it's the best game of the year so far and the most innovative since Super Mario Galaxy 2 rocked the world last Summer. There are some other changes to the list too, all of which you can find below:
7. FIFA 11

New Mario & Sonic Announced

Want more Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games? Of course you do, so the announcement of another entry in the popular Nintendo mini-game series should come as nothing but good news, then. Yes, everyone's favourite platforming plumber and everyone's favourite speedy hedgehog are back for a new outing based around the London sports competition taking place next year, this time arriving on the Wii and 3DS. The game, titled Mario & Sonic At The London 2012 Olympic Games (try saying that while you're drunk...), will feature new sports such as football and equestrian as well as new 'Dream Events' nostalgically revisiting the best moments of the competition and both gaming franchises. Bearing in mind the announcement that a new Nintendo home console will release next year, this could well be the final entry of this generation of games consoles! Mario & Sonic At The London 2012 Olympic Games is set for release this Winter.

Monday, 25 April 2011

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Thor Review (4.5/5)

First things first, I want to congratulate Marvel Studios on making the best possible film based around fantasy hero Thor, as I genuinely believe that for comic book fans it doesn't get much better than this. Even if Thor has seemed too comedic, too uneventful or too unrealistic (in which case, didn't you see X-Men? Mutant powers don't exist in the real world, people!) in its heavy marketing campaign, it not only bump starts what looks to be an incredible summer of film, but unexpectedly sets a benchmark for every superhero movie to come from this year onwards. The central premise is that after starting an unnecessary war with his race's mortal enemies, the arrogant warrior Thor is cast from his home planet of Asgard and sentenced to exile on Earth, only to find that the shadows threatening his world will soon threaten this one. Surprisingly, more of the film takes place in the fictional land of magic than it does here, but on both sides the action is fast-paced, well scripted and beautifully animated (you owe it to yourself to see this in 3D- I don't know how well it will stand up on DVD, but whilst the experience is offered to you, make the most of it!), refusing to let up for more than ten minutes and making the piece all the better for it. The soundtrack is dazzling too, even if it is occasionally overshadowed by the rather loud battles taking place- the Destroyer in particular is a little hard on the ears- and Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman have fine chemistry as Thor and human ally Jane Foster. There's even time for some furthering of the Avengers story arc, here used to briefly introduce Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, reference a certain gamma-dosed scientist and ultimately set up the plot of next year's team-up with the help of Loki and Nick Fury in an ace post-credits scene. My only major criticism is that Thor's ending feels a little too open, especially as it leaves the titular hero in a very uncertain place given his upcoming membership in the team, but that was always going to be the case in many ways. However, other than that, this is a film full of action, lighthearted comedy and most importantly spirit, and I for one cannot wait to see Chris Hemsworth back in action!

Nintendo Confirm New Console For 2012

It's perhaps the biggest news video gaming has had this year- Nintendo Japan today confirmed that a successor to the Wii is on its way in 2012, and will be revealed and playable at E3 in June! In their latest press statement, the company said: "We will show a playable model of the new system and announce more specifications at the E3 Expo, which will be held June 7-9, 2011, in Los Angeles". Currently dubbed 'Project Cafe', the new console is rumoured to be more powerful than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, compatible with Wii titles and using a tablet controller with a screen (not unlike the iPad or Amazon Kindle). Nintendo are often first to release their next-generation console ahead of Microsoft and Sony, but whether the latter developers are planning 2013 or '14 releases for their next hardware is uncertain given the recent introduction of Kinect and Move. Unfortunately, the blog hiatus does not end until June 16th, but on that day rest assured all the big news and announcements from E3 can be found right here!

Who: Day Of The Moon Preview

There's likely more than a few viewers who will need to watch the first episode of Series Six again before Day Of The Moon hits this Saturday (I have already done so and will probably do so several more times this week), but let me be your guide to what to expect in this week's action-packed story...
SILENCE WILL FALL- What does that ominous message mean? We got mere glimpses of the Silents last week, however we're promised a major battle for the Doctor and his group of companions this time around, so maybe we'll find out!
THE DOCTOR'S DEATH- This took everyone by surprise in The Impossible Astronaut, yet by the episode's climax we were no closer to solving how the TARDIS crew could prevent it or bring the Time Lord back. Whatever happens this week, expect tension to rise if the team has to keep their secret for longer.
THE ASTRONAUT- Far from terrorising her or posing as her to lure the Doctor in, the titular astronaut of Episode 1 was revealed to be the scared little girl- but who is she? Fans have speculated she is Amy's child or even River Song, but I get the feeling it's more specifically related to this story than the entire season.
APOLLO 11- 1969 is obviously when Apollo 11 set off on its momentus voyage into space, but how can it with the Silence threatening to consume Earth? Bearing in mind that the mission took place in July, perhaps a month or two will have passed (that would certainly explain the image of the Doc's bearded imprisonment in Area 51) in between episodes. The trailer made it seem like the Silence capture Amy too- bad move!
THE TARDIS- Or rather, the spaceship from The Lodger whose interior resembles it. Why is it here? Will the Silence escape in it to fight another day? Wait and see...
CLIFFHANGERS- We've got last week's big open ending to resolve first- what happened to Rory that River witnessed? Obviously the astronaut survives being shot, but how, and what will her reaction and the consequences be? However, that's not all- we're promised an epic final scene that will contain another cliffhanger, not likely to be resolved until later this season but exciting all the same!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut Review (4.5/5)

Blimey- if there's one thing you can call The Impossible Astronaut, Steven Moffat's jam-packed season opener, it's ambitious: over the course of forty five minutes, we saw the Doctor shot, burnt, naked, 1103 years and 908 years old, and that was just for starters! Fans have been asking for a story that demanded theirs and everyone else's attention, and we certainly got just that this week, although I can't help but wonder whether we got a little more than we bargained for...hear me out, I loved the episode, from the stunning performances by the four leads to the totally unexpected twists layered throughout, however the pacing was quite slow, as if one half was setting up the overall plot arc of Series Six (how long will we have to wait to see the nature of the Doc's death, one week, one month?) and the other showing the mystery and fear the Silence can install- so far, they don't top the Weeping Angels, but to be fair we only got a few glimpses of them- as well as throwing in the whole shebang of Amy being pregnant (Who will the child be...the astronaut? River? Those are some fan theories, but I have a feeling there's more to it than that). Yes, there were a lot of big events and series-spanning threads established, but I'd appreciate it next week if the story plays out more like the second half of this one. Overall, although it remains merely equal to The Eleventh Hour as opposed to besting it completely, The Impossible Astronaut was a very strong start to Season Six of Doctor Who, and the one week wait between episodes has never felt so long!

Friday, 22 April 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Portal 2 Review (10/10)

Before you go thinking that score is biased and a result of there being so few must-have games released so far in 2011, think again: Portal 2 is the perfect successor to Valve's cunning puzzler, mixing the best plot and voice acting I've ever seen in a video game and difficult yet satisfying challenges to form the ultimate package. Stephen Merchant lends his vocal talents to artificial intelligence Wheatley, and truly the character's banter with GlAdOs and the boss of Aperture Science makes for hilarious listening as you tackle the test chambers of Aperture once more as Chell. The plot is a lot more integrated this time around, but while for some games this would prove a failing, the change is genuinely refreshing and ensures that you're never left working out a puzzle's solution in silence for more than five or ten minutes, one of my main gripes with the original. You'll get a good 6-10 hours out of the campaign provided you take the time to soak in the masterfully scripted storyline and the incredibly immersive environment, yet this isn't where the game stops: a full, totally seperate multi-player campaign is also included! Assuming you play the solo campaign first, this acts as a huge challenge of everything you learnt there, streching the ingenuity of the title's level design to unthinkable limits and equally giving the two players more satisfaction in the knowledge that they have bested a real toughie using their brains. Although there's not as much plot to co-op, there's still a great storyline spanning a good five hours minimum, and the optional interactions between robots Atlas and P-Body should get everyone in hysterics, even if GlAdOs is none too pleased. Replay value is a little lacking here, with only a fun developer commentary to unlock after beating the game, but I rate a game on the actual experience, and for that Portal 2 can only get full marks. If there's one puzzle game you play this year, make it this- and don't be surprised if you see it on Game of the Year shortlists!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Harry Potter: On The Road Review (3/5)

Bundled alongside the Deathly Hallows: Part One DVD at Asda, On The Road was, inevitably, always going to be a bit of a disappointment compared to the hefty two-disc package loaded with special features, but to its credit there is some new footage here that might entice fans. For example, did you know that at the Fleur/Percy wedding the cast argued as to whether the Weasleys or the Delacours had more say in the tent's decorations? Or that scenes were filmed not just in Swinley Forest but also Burnham Beeches and on the Scottish coast at Glen Entive? Anecdotes such as these make for an eventful and interesting twenty minutes, but that's honestly all you get, and even though at just a couple of extra pounds (the double pack costs £12 as opposed to Part One at £10) we shouldn't really expect too much, the recycling of footage from the main DVD and the feature's brevity can't be forgiven as a missed opportunity on Asda's part. However, while you shouldn't go out of your way just for the bonus disc, if you happen to get On The Road then you'll at least get a nice look at some areas of the film you didn't know about, and it is one more dose of Potter before it all ends in July!

First Deathly Hallows Part 2 Game Details Revealed

It's about time- just under three months before the film's release, Electronic Arts have unveiled the video game tie-in to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 with a new trailer and screenshots. The title, based around the final film in the series, will once again be akin to a third-person shooter, taking an over-the-shoulder view as Harry fights for his life and the lives of every wizard and Muggle in the world. Players will visit many memorable locations from the past and present movies, including Gringott's Bank, Godric's Hollow and ultimately Hogwarts to find the final Horcruxes and end a battle that threatens to destroy the wizarding world. EA revealed that while there won't be Kinect support (a feature in the Part 1 tie-in), PS3 owners can use the Move controller throughout the game, and Wii players will also get to wave their remotes and control Harry's wand. This time around the emphasis won't just be on Mr. Potter, either: from some parts of the trailer and remembering an event late in the book that may require other characters to play as while Harry isn't there, it looks like Ron, Hermionie and Ginnie will become playable as well later on. The Part 2 videogame will release in the week starting July 12th, while the movie itself premières on the 15th of July. You can watch the first trailer right here: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1530271116437&oid=126608720686085&comments

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen Will Get A Who Tribute

The Doctor Who production team has today confirmed that they will pay homage to Elisabeth Sladen in the broadcast of The Impossible Astronaut this Saturday. Asked by Digital Spy as to what the tribute will entail, a spokesman for the BBC said the crew were "planning something suitable" to air directly after the first episode of Series Six, but would not divulge further. In all honesty, I think that's a good idea as it will make whatever's coming all the more moving than us knowing exactly what to expect. DWM (the Doctor Who Magazine) has also revealed that we should get to see the last three recorded Sarah Jane Adventures stories that were filmed late last year to originally air alongside three others this Autumn (these were postponed and inevitably cancelled as Liz's state deteriorated) at some point in 2011. The publication revealed that there would be special tribute issues of DWM dedicated to the late Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen in the second half of the year as well, so clearly everyone is taking what has happened just as seriously as they should, even though none of us were ready to say Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith.

Who: Sarah-Jane's Best Moments

Elisabeth Sladen's death was such an untimely passing, so unexpected, that it  took every fan by surprise yesterday. To keep the spirit up for those of you who are still finding the grief hard to cope with (and believe me, the situation is the same for me), let me remind you of the actress's best episodes as Sarah-Jane Smith:
THE TIME WARRIOR- Posing as a journalist, Sarah-Jane joined the Doctor on the TARDIS to fight a menacing Sontaran in medieval times, and even in her first story Liz is innocent yet totally believable as a companion.
SCHOOL REUNION- 43 years later, Liz returned to the show, older and yet somehow the same, but this time tear-inducing as she asked the Doctor why she was left behind and eventually got a new lease on life.
THE TRICKSTER STORIES (SJA)- All three of Sarah-Jane's encounters with the ultimate time meddler featured an emotional hurdle for Elizabeth to try and empathise with, and every time she managed it perfectly- the scene where she meets her doomed parents and they reconcile before they go to their deaths in The Temptation Of Sarah-Jane Smith is utterly heartbreaking and so well played.
THE DOCTOR STORIES (SJA)- Twice the Doctor returned to help his old companion in two different incarnations, and both times the chemistry was spot-on, one of the best relationships between the Time Lord and his companion so far. Sarah-Jane's tearful goodbye of sorts to the Tenth Doctor in Wedding is highly relevant today, especially one line she said when her old friend asked her not to forget him: "No one's ever going to forget you."

Thor, Captain America Sequels Confirmed

Neither Thor nor Captain America: The First Avenger has hit cinemas yet (although my world-exclusive review of the former is coming next Monday), but Marvel's Kevin Feige has confirmed that both will get sequels in the future. In an interview with IGN, the president of the film studio said that we can expect Thor to "go off into a new adventure" and the iconic Cap to "continue to explore the modern world [The First Avenger will for the most part take place in World War II, but in the comics the character was frozen until the 21st century to join the Avengers, an event likely to close the film]". And, apparently, that's not all..."Blackwidow, Hawkeye and S.H.I.E.L.D are all capable of carrying their own films. And we've got a lot of other characters we're prepping and getting ready for their film débuts: the world of martial arts, these great cosmic space fantasies, Dr. Strange, and the magic side of the Marvel Universe." It all sounds very exciting, but for now let's hope Thor (out next Wednesday), Captain America (July 22nd) and The Avengers (Summer 2012) live up to their potential!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

RIP Elisabeth Sladen (1948-2011)

Elisabeth Sladen died today aged 63. Sladen was famous for her role as Sarah-Jane Smith in Doctor Who, appearing alongside Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, David Tennant and Matt Smith in the show and her brilliant spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures. She also appeared in many pantomimes and radio shows between her reprisals of the role, while supporting the science-fiction programme whatever its status. I cannot express enough my deep sadness at the death of an actress with such talent, charm and utter dedication to her work- Elisabeth clearly had so much more to give, and her suffering from cancer and untimely passing is the most tragic news I've heard in a long time. I would like to send my deepest wishes to her family and friends in this hard time. No fan of Who or Adventures will ever forget you, Elisabeth; rest in peace.

Who: Vincent And The Doctor Retrospective (R: 4.5/5)

It's Richard Curtis writing Doctor Who- what could possibly go wrong? Not much, as it happens, because Vincent And The Doctor is another stunning highlight of the season that fully takes advantage of the show's time travel aspects and features one of the best castings since its 2005 return in Tony Curran as Vincent Van Gogh. Curran shows us effortlessly the mental strains the famous artist fell under in his final year of life, and so it's no wonder that the trip to the modern museum that the Doctor takes his new friend is so genuinely moving, as is Amy's crushed hope that Vincent might not have taken his own life due to their adventure. Bill Nighy also makes a nice cameo, though debatably the bow tie gag becomes a little too cringe-worthy here. That's not the main problem found here, though; no, that comes in the naff CGI of the invisible monster hunting the trio of protagonists through the streets of Paris- it really begs the question why the BBC fails to invest more money in one of its flagship annual dramas, not just its finale (you can see effort really went into making The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang look great), and its something which I hope has been addressed in this year's run. Other than that, though, Vincent And The Doctor brings the series back on a high which has yet to drop!

Who: Cold Blood Retrospective (R: 3.5/5)

Unlike The Hungry Earth, Cold Blood has one major part going for it that prevents it becoming another lowlight for Series 5; Rory's death is emotional, played out brilliantly by Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillian as Amy realises her fiancée is about to be consumed by a crack and wiped from her memory, leaving only the Doctor to carry the burden of his memory. However, the Silurians are no more likeable than they were last week, merely providing a stereotypical military threat for our favourite Time Lord to best in a predictable run of events that even the most casual viewer will see coming from a mile off (Negotiations ruined by a death? Check. A legend that will probably never be passed on, leading to another confrontation? Check.), and many of the guest cast such as Nia Roberts border on melodramatic in their portrayals of the human survivors. Were it not for the final scenes, Cold Blood would score just as low as its predecessor, so thank goodness Steven Moffat saw it fit to kill off a main character here or we would be looking into the eyes of a beast.

The Top 6 Best Episodes Of Modern Who

Yesterday, I looked at some of the downright worst examples of Doctor Who episodes since the show's return in 2005, but now it's time to remind ourselves that most writers have got their scripts to a brilliant standard so far, and often there are episodes which blow everyone away:
6. FLESH & STONE- A gripping conclusion to an excellent two-parter, most of the adventure took place in the forest of the Byzantium, but that didn't stop it from featuring quality moments such as the tragic death of Father Octavion, his warning that River Song cannot be trusted and Matt's fantastic victory speech as he tells his companions to "get a grip" as he sends the army of Weeping Angels hurtling into the crack.
5. THE WATERS OF MARS- Quite possibly the darkest Who has ever gone, Waters began to signal the end for the Tenth Doctor in a fast paced, ultimately heartbreaking epic where we see the near-terrifying 'Time Lord Victorious' suffer the beginning of his demise when an Ood appears in the snow...
4. UTOPIA- I can't credit this episode enough for pulling the massive surprise of Yana being the Master, especially with such an unexpected link to the Family Of Blood two-parter in the fob watch and Jack's bold yet emotional return into the Doctor's life!
3. BLINK- Very nearly getting second place, Blink was the first time I'd ever been scared of a Doctor Who enemy, incredibly impressive when you consider that the same adversary cannot talk or move when seen- but that's what makes the Weeping Angels so terrifying...the rest of the story was unbalanced, but the Angels make this essential viewing.
2. THE PANDORICA OPENS- A recent one, The Pandorica Opens was edgy, innovative and contained Matt Smith's sublime Stonehenge speech. But what's more, it takes any viewer off guard when you realise that the fates have converged on the Doctor and he is the only person who scares the universe enough to have its worst monsters join together and attempt to save reality from him. His imprisonment in the Pandorica as the cracks in time open and silence begins to fall is deeply disturbing stuff!
1. DALEK- Only writer Rob Sherman could make a lone Dalek terrifying and pitiful in the space of forty five minutes; this near-perfect episode claimed victory on the list for making me realise just why people used to hide behind the sofa...

Doctor Who Series 6 Part 1 DVD Revealed

In just four days, Doctor Who will be back on our screens in the first of seven brand new episodes starring Matt Smith as the Doctor, Karen Gillian as Amy Pond and Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams, and in the build-up to Season Six 2Entertain have revealed that they will release a DVD box-set containing the Spring half (i.e. the seven episodes, with the remaining six set to air from September) on the 11th of July, roughly a month after it finishes airing. The set will retail for £25, and feature simply the episodes, with a full season set arriving near Christmas complete with the Confidential behind-the-scenes episodes and commentaries. Promoting the new DVD and Blu-Ray release, the BBC have released a synopsis for the Spring half as a whole: "The Doctor returns, alongside newly weds Amy and Rory, to face monsters and mysteries and adventures across time and space. Together they'll find themselves in 1960s America, battling the invasion the world forgot, then journey on the high seas of 1696 on a pirate ship, to solve the mystery of the Siren. In a bubble universe at the very edge of reality, the Doctor will meet an old friend with a new face, and in a monastery on a remote island in the near future, an industrial accident will take on a terrible human shape. And waiting for them, at the end of all this, is the battle of Demon's Run, and the Doctor's darkest hour. Can even the truth about River Song save the Doctor's soul? Only two things are certain. Silence will fall. And a good man will die." The Impossible Astronaut airs this Saturday at 6pm on BBC One, and Series 6: Part 1 releases on DVD and Blu-Ray on the 11th of July- Amazon are selling it for just £15, so preorder while it's hot!

Glee: Sexy Review (4/5)

There had to be a point where the brilliant run of recent Glee episodes faltered, however though Sexy isn't as strong as some of its predecessors Gwyneth Paltrow's return did still make it a viewing to remember. This week it was all about sex education, yet surprisingly that didn't make it feel predictable after we looked at the dangers of alcohol last week. That there was still innovation was probably due to the return of the aformentioned actress (perhaps most famous for her role as assistant Pepper in the Iron Man films), who brought with her great renditions of Do You Wanna Touch Me, Kiss and Landslide while proving to be a new problem in the Will and Emma requited love saga that has spanned the entirety of the programme so far. There were five songs in the mix this week, but it annoyed me to see that most of them were shoehorned in during the second half as opposed to being well spaced out throughout the hour, especially when Afternoon Delight- probably ringing a bell with fans of Will Ferrell's Anchorman!- was cut short before it could come to fruition. Thankfully, the sub-plot of Kurt's dealing with what sex means for homosexual men was interesting and not as much of a juxtaposition as recent Warbler outings have been alongside the main storyline. Overall, while the pacing could have been handled better and the closing tango number was a bit of a strange one, Sexy was a well-above average episode that managed to hold its own even if it wasn't necessarily as strong as its predecessors.

First Portal 2 Reviews Are In

Out now in the United States, Portal 2 is definitely one of my most anticipated video games of 2011, and it seems the wait has paid off- in their review, IGN rated it at 9.5/10, branding it "an early contender for Game of the Year" and praising its cast of characters "brought vividly to life through brilliant writing and some of the best voice acting in video games". CVG and NowGamer were equally positive in their verdicts, giving it 9.3 and 9.5 respectively, the former noting that "though it's impossible to shake off the feeling of familiarity, Portal 2 is one of the best sequels we've ever played" and the latter simply stating "no fruity descriptions, no fancy words: just buy it." The Official Xbox Magazine took the somewhat overwhelming praise to another level, awarding the game a full 10 marks out of ten for "consistently rewarding challenges", "exceptionally entertaining co-op" and being "the funniest game this generation", with GiantBomb also giving it 5/5 for "retaining the cynical heart of the original" but "blowing out the scale on virtually every aspect of the execution". The only real point of criticism seems to be replay value, with there being little to do other than replay the storyline to find pieces of dialogue you missed and trying the equally challenging co-op mode, making for an experience that will end after around 12 hours. However, the same was true of Batman: Arkham Asylum and the original Portal, and that hasn't stopped them becoming amongst the best loved games of all time! Portal 2 retails here on Thursday, and you can expect my full review the day after!

Monday, 18 April 2011

White Crow Review (4/5)

As ever, Marcus Sedgwick's latest novel White Crow is gritty, realistic and ultimately harrowing, more than earning its place on the 2011 Kate Carnegie shortlist, but is it likely to win the award? The premise is that two groups of unlikely friends are intrigued to find out what awaits us after death, and somehow despite them living two centuries apart, whatever one group does in the 1800s will directly affect the others 200 years on. Like so many books found on past and present shortlists, it's hard to go into much detail without spoiling some of the best plot twists, but what I will say is that although the first half of the novel seems to be fairly uneventful and uncompelling, persevere through it because the second half is much more exciting, taking minor words said by the characters early on and transforming them into key threads in the storyline that help provide a satisfying- if somewhat disturbing- dénouement sure to keep any reader thinking long after the final page. That Sedgwick appears to manage this with every piece he produces never ceases to amaze me, and were it not for the unbalanced pacing this would undoubtedly go down as his best work yet. As it is, White Crow takes its time starting up, but once the connections between Winterfold's inhabitants in the 19th and 21st centuries become apparent it becomes an absolutely essential read.

Sonic: Generations Revealed

With the character's twentieth anniversary just a few months away, SEGA have revealed the latest Sonic The Hedgehog game to be a celebration of the franchise's long history, featuring not one but two speedy 'hogs in high definition remakes of the series' best levels. Titled Sonic: Generations, the new instalment sees the current incarnation of Sonic travel back in time to meet his younger self from the days of the side-scrolling originals on MegaDrive, allowing the player to choose to either relive the 2D days and tackle courses from left to right as 'classic Sonic' or go for the more dynamic route with 'modern Sonic' whereby three dimensions come into play as well as recent abilities like the speed boost and homing attack. Sites like CVG, IGN and Gamespot had the chance to test out Generations last week, and the latter has already said in its preview that the hands-on left them "giddy with excitement", so the signs are promising for this, especially with the excellent Sonic 4: Episode 1 and Sonic Colours already under SEGA's belt (let's just forget Sonic Free Riders ever happened, shall we?). Sonic: Generations will be released on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii this Autumn! Catch the first full game-play trailer below:

The Top 6 Worst Episodes Of Modern Who

Sometimes, Doctor Who gets it wrong. I'm not ashamed as a dedicated fan to admit that since the show returned in 2005, there have been a handful of absolutely terrible episodes that either get their respective tones wrong or leave you feeling like the last forty five minutes were wasted when you could have been having fun. Here's my top six:
6. THE HUNGRY EARTH- Its intentions are good, but so little actually happens in this one that it's easy to get bored, not to mention the fact that it sports perhaps the worst cliffhanger since Who returned ("Look what I've found, a big cave! Wow!!" Cut to credits).
5. 42- Trying too hard to juggle the Mr Saxon arc of Series Three and an epic race against time, 42 felt like a wasted opportunity to take the series into dark territory. Plus, what the heck were those monsters meant to be?
4. THE LONG GAME- These next few are all particularly loathsome, but there was just too much going on here- Rose was reduced to a mere two or three lines, and Simon Pegg didn't get enough chance to shine!
3. BOOM TOWN- Okay, so the resturant scenes between Chris Eccleston's Doctor and antagonist Margaret Blaine were funny to watch, yet this is another example of Who going domestic unsuccessfully.
2. THE IDIOT'S LANTERN- God, was the Wire annoying! David Tennant does a great turn as a vengeful Doc when Rose loses her face, but otherwise this was a bog-standard historical episode with terribly mundane guest stars. Watch this, and you're facing the ultimate endurance test...
1. FEAR HER-...unless of course you sit through this, which makes number 2 seem like an Oscar winner. Try as it might to convince us it was a cool glimpse at the 2012 London Olympics, Fear Her was in reality a story on low-budget, and it showed. Scribble monsters? Really?

First Thor Reviews Are In

The mighty Thor is on his way to cinemas this Friday, so critics have begun posting their thoughts on the new film by Marvel Studios. IGN gave the fantasy adventure 3.5 stars, calling it a "solidly entertainment comic book movie" with "enough action and otherworldly elements to appease the core fans and possibly even win over some skeptics, and enough humour and humanity to engage general audience". Reviewer Jim Vejvoda did have some gripes, though, including huge antagonist the Destroyer, who ultimately "was a bit underwhelming" and "the brevity of Thor's stay on Earth", commenting that the majority of the film takes place on the magical planet of Asgard. Meanwhile, SFX's Dave Golder rated it 4/5, dubbing lead Chris Hemsworth "a fine Thor" and the film itself "witty, pacy and [with] moments of real poignancy (oddly less to do with Thor's relationship with Jane and more to with his relationship with his hammer)". Golder did criticise it for feeling "oddly small-scale", but said "it's decent enough fun to make you hope we get a sequel". TotalFilm, on the other hand, gave Thor 3 stars due to the fact that "the ending is a little weak", but noting that "the most problematic hurdle in The Avengers' is cleared with ease and style by a film that makes a virtue of its inherent silliness." In their 4 star verdict, Den Of Geek said that the film  "offers the strongest hints yet at what we can expect to see in The Avengers"! From what's being said, then, thankfully Thor looks to do for the hammer-wielding hero what Iron Man did for its hero. My exclusive day one review of Thor will be here on April 29th when it releases in cinemas.

UK Gaming Charts: April 11th-17th

Sadly, pretty much nothing has changed this week in our video games charts, with Zumba Fitness (an absolutely atrocious fitness title for Kinect, I'll upload my review later) staying on top and just a couple of shifts elsewhere such as LEGO Star Wars moving up one place. As I said last week, with Portal 2 and Mortal Kombat out on Thursday things should start to mercifully change on the lists, so check back next Monday for this week's chart...
4. FIFA 11

Who: The Impossible Astronaut Preview

This Saturday, Doctor Who returns to BBC One at 6pm, so to kick off my week-long countdown it's time to look at what we can expect in the episode, speculating on the twists and the main arc. Every week, I'll look at the seven episodes, starting today with The Impossible Astronaut...
AMERICA- For the first time since the show returned in 2005, this season is opening with a two-parter set and filmed in America. From what's been said in DWM, we'll open in modern day then shift back to the United States in the 1960s, where the Doctor is recruited by President Nixon to find a terrified little girl and save her from the spaceman who can't exist...but just a second, how does Nixon know where to find the Time Lord...?
RIVER SONG- Bursting back with a gunshot and "Hello sweetie", the most enigmatic character in the Doctor's life is allowed out of Stormcage again to help with the task at hand. Will we find out more about her?
ENVELOPES & SECRETS- To recruit our heroes, Nixon sends out four TARDIS-coloured envelopes to Amy, Rory and River with a time, date and location- but who is the other friend of the Doctor attending the reunion? Searching for the fourth envelope, the Doctor uncovers secrets amongst his crew that they cannot tell, causing tension between everyone and sure to continue throughout this season.
THE SILENCE- "The universe is cracked- the Pandorica will open, silence will fall." Prisoner Zero told us just this in The Eleventh Hour, but we still don't know just who the Silence are. We'll find out very soon, but from what I can see the titular astronaut has something to do with them, as does the reason for us hearing the voice of the girl apparently in jeopardy yet never seeing her face...
HISTORY IN THE MAKING?- DWM's preview of the two-parter also revealed that the clips of the Nazis, Edwardians and the Doctor chained and sporting a beard take place in this story.
WHO WILL DIE?- DWM took everyone by surprise with their recent cover revealing that either the Doctor, Amy, Rory or River will die this week, but perhaps Steven Moffat's statement that "A good man will die and an impossible life will begin" starts to explain what is sure to be this week's cliffhanger!
The Impossible Astronaut airs this Saturday at 6pm on BBC One and BBC One HD.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Who: The Hungry Earth Retrospective (R: 3/5)

I haven't seen all of the classic era (1963-1989) of Doctor Who by a long shot, but from the stories I've watched so far one beneficial development in the present series is the use of more sets and the faster pace of adventures consisting only of one or two parts as opposed to four or six. The Hungry Earth stumbles, then, by bucking this trend and for the most part proving tediously uneventful. Arriving in a Welsh village in the year 2020, the Doctor and his companions investigate a mining project that has disturbed old foes the Silurians beneath the surface of the planet, sparking the possibility of a war for the ownership of the Earth. Chris Chibnall's script is wholly reminiscent of those found in the days of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee, with even the Time Lord remarking "I love a big drill!" having encountered so many in the past, and I wouldn't be surprised if the show's target audience of children and teens got bored of simply seeing their favourite characters walking up and down the same sets over and over again for an entire episode, especially when the 'cliffhanger' of the two-parter was just the Doctor discovering an army of Silurians preparing to awaken. Thankfully, the cast are great despite not exactly being famous, with particularly compelling contributions coming from Meera Syal as Nasreen and young Samuel Davies as dyslexic Elliot. As ever, Matt, Karen and Arthur give it their all too, and there is still a genuine sense of danger when Amy is sucked beneath the Earth and the Doctor asks his team to be the best of humanity in the coming battle, but it feels like the danger is merely brought towards boiling point as opposed to reaching it, leaving Cold Blood with the challenge of speeding things up...

Who: Amy's Choice Retrospective (R: 3.5/5)

Right from the off, Amy's Choice gets something wrong which immediately ensures it won't score too highly- a fundamental part of Doctor Who is its use of alien costumes, distant planets and out-of-world concepts, so any episode that then attempts to use a more domestic approach oft devoid of mystery or tension will have trouble impressing. It can be done, as shown later this season in The Lodger, but Episode Seven gets too mixed up in its unbalanced dealings with Amy and Rory's relationship, their ideal dreams, the danger posed by the Doctor being in their lives and ultimately the Time Lord's darker side. We open with a set-up that's traditional Who, as our time travelling trio realise that they are sleeping in one world and something or someone is creating another. That someone is the Dream Lord, played excellently by Toby Jones as a witty and somewhat haunting villain who, in reality, is just a piece of psychic pollen...wait a minute, what? The idea that, after nearly 45 minutes of a ghostly alter-ego to the Doctor plaguing the protagonists' dreams, he wasn't even real feels like a sheer cop-out on the part of writer Simon Nye, and is an element of the Dream Lord that needs to be fixed when he inevitably returns in the future. If that was all that was wrong with Amy's Choice, it would still rank at 4 or 4.5/5, however seeing the Doctor face off against strangely-animated baddies in care homes, playgrounds and the suburbs just feels out of place for a show that revels in its genre's conventions and innovates upon them on a weekly basis. Inevitably, the reset button gets pressed by our heroes realising in all but spoken dialogue that "It was all just a dream", and while this was perhaps something that had to happen, I can't help but wonder if there could have been a way round it. Either way, there's still a lot to love about Amy's Choice, and the final image of the Doctor's darkness always staring through his reflection is harrowing to stay the least, undoubtedly something Series 6 will come back to!

Smallville: Finale Preview

Back on the CW, Smallville has entered its final run of episodes ever, and with Kent (my review of which will be here next week) out of the way there's only Booster, Dominion and Prophecy before the two-hour climax, Finale, airs on May 13th. With the show's impending end on its way, the producers have premiered a teaser trailer for the last episode, showing key moments from throughout all ten seasons before offering glimpses of what's to come for Lois, Martha, Jonathan, Lex, Tess, Chloe, Lionel and Darkseid when the day comes for Clark to ascend into his destiny and fly up, up and away. Finale airs on May 13th, let me know what you think of the teaser trailer below:

EXCLUSIVE: Britain's Got Talent Review (4/5)

There's no denying that Britain's Got Talent needed some refreshing- the show, now another annual event for iTV, reached its fourth season last year and its winner Spellbound felt old hat compared to the likes of Paul Potts and Susan Boyle who were discovered early on, not to mention that judges Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan seemed to be almost getting bored of saying the same comments every week. Enter Michael McIntyre and David Hasslehoff, two hopefully permanent replacements on the judging panel that appear to have breathed new life into the reality series. McIntyre brings all his wit and charm from his tours Live & Laughing and Hello Wembley, remarking that a mediocre singing group needs to find a new talent "so fricking bad" after a terrible rendition of Billionare and upon seeing a financial analyst who is painted blue attempt to be a 'human dolphin' even goes so far as to quip: "Now I know why the country is in financial debt." Despite being the addition I was most dubious of, actor Hasslehoff brings a wave of energy and bravado to the programme, rounding off a  perfect trio of judges along with series regular Amanda Holden. All that was lacking from last night's premiere episode was Simon Cowell (he isn't too sorely missed, but it will be nice when he's back at the live shows) and much real talent bar the somewhat dimwitted- yet fantastic- guitarist who closed the night, but I can safely say that Britain's Got Talent is well and truly back on top as a great Saturday night watch!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

THE HIATUS- What, When, Why?

They say all good things must come to an end, but thankfully On-Screen isn't one of them, and won't be going away anytime soon. That being said, there are always times in our lives where some commitments must take precedence, and as a result of impending exams I'll be temporarily putting the blog on a hiatus next month to give me more time to focus on revision, think ocassionally about how the articles and their content can be improved and then bring it back with a bang as soon as I can. For now, the dates I'll start and end the aforementioned break are as such:
APRIL 30th-MAY 28th, JUNE 5th-JUNE 16th
You'll notice that there are two time periods included there- that's because my exams do stop for a week at the end of May, at which point while revising for the final tests I will take some time to look over what's happened in the world of entertainment over the month I've been away, updating the site with new reviews, previews and news aplenty. I may also get chance to write weekly reviews of Doctor Who, Smallville and Glee during the hiatus, but that's still very much up in the air so don't hold your breath just yet. There will be some big new pieces coming before the hiatus, though, so here's a taste of what to expect...
PRE-APRIL 30th: Britain's Got Talent, Portal 2, Doctor Who Episodes One & Two and Thor rated.
MAY 28th-JUNE 5th: The next COD, Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed announced, the first E3 news, the rest of Doctor Who's Spring half reviewed, the Smallville finale scored and many more features!
POST-JUNE 16th: Everything revealed at E3, verdicts on L.A Noire, LEGO Pirates Of The Caribbean, Child Of Eden, The Hangover: Part II, X-Men: First Class, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the Carnegie shortlist, the new Who books and so many more, the best release of May 2011, the most promising releases of June, the best releases of the first half of the year and a big look at all that's to come. Yep, when we're back in the Summer, On-Screen is going to be bigger and better than ever, with more than a few surprises in store...

New Deathly Hallows Images Arrive

Draco Malfoy from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2'Harry, Hermione and Ron from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part Two is just three months away from its premiere, and as the anticipation rises for what should be one of the best films out this Summer, more images of the finale have surfaced online. The first (top left) shows Draco Malfoy alongside Crabbe and another Slytherin student, all three with their wands at the ready. Presumably, this is getting towards the point in the film where the anti-hero must make a decision as to what side he wil stand on in the Battle of Hogwarts, something which was addressed briefly in Half Blood Prince but left well alone in last year's instalment. The second image (bottom left) shows Harry, Ron and Hermionie looking up in the sky at something with more than a little fear on their faces, and if I were a betting man I'd say that they are either nearing the aforementioned battle of their friends and enemies and are witnessing Hogwarts becoming a warzone, or this might be to do with Voldemort's acquiring of the Elder Wand at the intense climax of Part One- could the light that seems to be illuminating the trio be the one cast by the wave of magical energy sent up into the air in the cliffhanger? What with all the new stuff, I'd imagine we're just days away from the first full trailer for Part Two, so keep your eye on On-Screen for a preview of what's to come on July 15th!

Changes Coming To Spotify

Music service Spotify has gone from strength to strength since its debut in 2008 on the web, providing free online music that can be listened to solely on your computer, but now as developments are made, so too must some changes to how the software works and the limitations on the music available. Previously, users could download Spotify Open (or Spotify Free in America) to access virtually any type of music they chose, with new albums uploaded often on the day of release, with the only 'drawback' being that a series of advertisements would be played after four or five songs had been listened to in a row. More recently, a limit to the number of hours listeners could use the free program was placed, allowing 20 hours of music per month before the user had to stop until the next month or join the premium Spotify, whereby they paid £10 a month for unlimited music with no ads that could be then used on the go, be it with iPods or MP3s (admittedly this is the one that furthest streches the question of whether this can be considered music piracy). However, oweing to the increasing popularity and thus noticability of Spotify on the internet, its programmes revealed yesterday that new limits would be placed on Spotify Open to restrict the amount of music that can be listened to permenantly. Now, users of the free software will get just ten hours of music per month, and this will also entail a restriction whereby you may only listen to a track five times maximum before it becomes permenantly unavailable to you. Already, fans of the service have voiced outrage at the move, and it may be that the company decides to go back on its choice at some point in the future or at least take away the no. of listens restriction (their reason for this is so that specific bands do not lose a significant amount of money from their fans simply listening to their music for free), and I myself do find it a tad hard to understand why we could not have been given more notice than five months- expect the changes to be implemented some time around October- even if the reasons behind the move are solid enough. Either way, that's what happening on Spotify, so let us know what you think!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Who: The Vampires Of Venice Retrospective (R: 4.5/5)

Funny how the episodes that seem to have the most basic premises can sometimes turn out to be unexpected hits- The Vampires Of Venice is like a mini-movie, featuring fangs, swashbuckling swords and explosions aplenty, as well as perhaps the most believable villain of the entire season. Lady Rosanna (Helen McCroy) carries a motive for her work that anyone could empathise with, trying to build a new home when her own was destroyed and willing to make sacrifices to do it. In fact, the real highlights of the story for me are Matt and Helen's scenes together where they discuss extinction, the cracks and the Silence in multiple locations of the beautifully directed shooting in Croatia. My only problem with the episode sadly comes from its placement in the season: having the Doctor burst into Rory's stag do- hilarious as it is- and discuss his untimely snog with the latter's future wife feels jarring to the pace of the story, and really we could have done with swapping Amy's Choice and this one (not least as that would have meant Rory wouldn't have had to die in two consecutive stories, more on that later!) so that the emotive elements could have been covered and this could have become simply a 'traditional' episode of its own. Other than that, though, The Vampires Of Venice is absolutely thrilling stuff, featuring one of Matt's best performances yet as the Doctor!

Who: Flesh & Stone Retrospective (R: 5/5)

Flesh & Stone carries the rare strength of being able to make use of just a handful of sets and yet keeping things interesting throughout. The episode reintroduces us to the cracks in time and space that have followed the Doctor and Amy through their travels in the TARDIS, shedding light on what caused them and the latter character's relevance towards them (something which still has yet to be fully addressed- will we find out the truth in the Spring half of Season Six?), while the Weeping Angels hunt the survivors of their current prey through an impossible forest. Admittedly the effect of said baddies is lessened at one point when we technically see them move, but other than that they're as creepy as ever to watch, and certainly warrant a return in the future providing writer Steven Moffat can keep their plans fresh. Even River's identity gets more evident- though as usual nothing's crystal clear- and although many stories would struggle to handle so many plotlines at once Mr. Moffat does wonders over the 45 minutes! There's very little to criticise in what is in my opinion one of the best episodes of Series Five, closing a great two-parter and developing intriguing plot arcs (for both Series 5 & 6) that would come to fruition some weeks later...

Who: The Time Of Angels Retrospective (R: 5/5)

A real cracker of an episode, this one- The Time Of Angels boasts a premise that is quintessential Doctor Who, but the return of the titular statues and the enigmatic River Song makes the first in a two-parter anything but predictable. Steven Moffat was right in likening this to being the Aliens of Blink's Alien, featuring the same villains with new abilities, and as with the aforementioned film series the effect of the 'Grandmother's Footsteps' style gimmick has worn off somewhat from before. Thankfully, we have great scenes like the opening sequence that masterfully parallels a visit to an alien museum and River's discovery of what lies in the vault of the Byzantium (and her impressive escape!), more allusions to just what River is to the 906 year old Time Lord, an Angel bursting out of a television screen in just a few seconds and a dramatic speech by Matt Smith that precedes a strangely obvious cliffhanger. Only some minor flaws of having a repeat enemy crop up here, but overall The Time Of Angels is perfect Saturday night drama, combining enough tension and mystery to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat until the credits roll!

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: The Gadget Show Live Review

As you'll have seen from all of the video game-based articles below, The Gadget Show Live at the Birmingham NEC had a massive Games Hall to impress every type of player, and certainly in terms of the exhibition area of the event it was my personal highlight. However, that's not to say that the rest of the exhibition wasn't impressive- I saw everything from virtual reality goggles to a miniscule cube-shaped MP3 player in my visit to Hall 12, based around pretty much every gadget other than gaming ones (like I said, see Hall 8 for those) and honestly was taken aback by the sheer variety of utensils and glimpses into the not too distant- I hope!- future on offer throughout. When it came to having spent a good four hours touring the exhibits, I'll admit I was ready to move on and would advise visitors this weekend that unless your live show is early on there's no need to rush in to see everything, because other than the obvious busyness (bad word, but surprisingly it's in the dictionary) of the halls there shouldn't be too much preventing you touring the whole show in a couple of hours. That said, I was prepared to be disappointed as I entered the huge Super Theatre- would any of the presenters not appear, and would it actually be very long? Sufficed to say my doubts were cast aside moments in, as I realised I was about to witness a genuine live episode of the ever-brilliant The Gadget Show with no strings attached. The experience is brimming with innovation, shedding aside the stereotypical 'Please turn off your phones' and actually encouraging your use of any gadgetry you possess, a refreshing approach to a performance and one that ensures the 90 odd minutes spent in the arena of sorts will never get dull or repetitive. I don't want to spoil the events of the performance, but in short you're in for a massive treat if you head up to the NEC in the next couple of days, and given that the shows apparently get better each year I'm already sold on the next Gadget Show Live for 2012. Seriously, if you missed out on tickets for this event, make it a mission to get some next time they become available as The Gadget Show Live is an essential experience for techno-geeks everywhere- and the rest of the family will all find something to enjoy too!

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Gears Of War 3 Impressions

For many gamers, Gears Of War 3 is their most anticipated title of 2011, finishing off the shooter trilogy with a bang as developer Epic Games draws the various plot strands of Marcus Fenix's tale to a close. At the Gadget Show Live, the multiplayer beta (due out April 25th on Xbox Live, or next Monday if you bought Bulletstorm and/or preordered this) was being tested with players, and while I couldn't get hands-on with it, I can assure fans right now that it's going to include everything they know and love, ramping up the visual flair and scaling down the number of glitches and online lag just as players had hoped. You either make your own character or play as a pre-set COG member, facing off against each other with cool weapons like machine guns and futuristic sniper rifles, or alternatively you can try playing as series antagonists the Locust in Beast Mode, the polar opposite to last year's Horde Mode (but that's included too, testing your teamwork and survival skills against masses of enemies). The graphics are simply amazing this time around, really honing in why Microsoft are pushing this as their major hardcore exclusive of the year and certainly enough to have PS3 fans quaking in their LittleBigPlanet Sackboy costumes, while the game-play is by far the most accessible and equally consistent we've seen in Gears before. All that remains now is to see if Epic can handle thousands of their followers racing onto the servers next Monday when the beta goes online, but if this is the testing stage of the multi-player alone I can't wait to see the finished product with a full single-player campaign!

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Child Of Eden Impressions

If you are currently a proud owner of Kinect and are wondering why the hell there haven't been any more games coming out for the peripheral bar Brain Training, take comfort in the knowledge that you're not alone- we're all waiting for a must-have Kinect title to show off to the cynics, and Child Of Eden may just be that game. A sequel of sorts to the classic rhythm shooter Rez, this allows you to use either a controller or your body (the latter being the more exciting proposition) to clear a virtual world of incoming viruses and ultimately spawn an artificial intelligence who can restore the titular haven. Developer Q Entertainment had staff on hand at the Gadget Show Live to show us a demo of the game, and from what I could see the accuracy of the Xbox 360's motion-sensing camera is virtually 1:1, with very little noticable lag to comment on and the shooting reticule moving at the exact speed and angle the demonstrator moved his own hand. This proves incredible to me still even though the technology has been in my house for nearly half a year now, and with a plot and immense replay value in the form of a high score table this is looking like an absolutely essential Kinect game, and even if you don't have the peripheral you should consider it anyway, it may be the experience which convinces you to buy it!

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Dirt 3, Duke Nukem Impressions

Both DIRT 3 and Duke Nukem: Forever were on display at the Gadget Show Live this week, and although I only got brief looks at both I can at least give you my first thoughts on the upcoming titles. DIRT 3 doesn't look to be moving away from the rest of the racing pack too dramatically, still maintaing the same type of game-play (it's hard not to nowadays, especially when racers that attempt innovation, e.g. Split/Second: Velocity and Blur, are panned by critics), the same gritty visuals as before and little to no plot included whatsoever. However, that none of these were changed inbetween the first and second games and yet DIRT 2 still sold by the bucketload all but proves that CodeMasters are already going to do well out of this one. Meanwhile, Duke Nukem: Forever came off as a brash, crazy shooter not a world apart from Bulletstorm, but there was little evidence to suggest that its developer has been working on it since 1997- Gearbox Studios has been doing just that, but this is simply going to be just another first-person shooter, albeit perhaps more violent and unrealistic given its Mature rating in America. Keep an eye out for reviews of DIRT 3 and Duke Nukem: Forever this Summer.