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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Coming Up For On-Screen In June

June is going to be a period with something to please everyone, and that will hopefully be reflected here at On-Screen with previews, reviews, features and big announcements galore. There will be a chance to reflect on the best releases of 2011 so far in our Mid Year Awards, then a chance to look ahead at what the year of entertainment still has to offer us in months to come with our Most Anticipated Awards, plus plenty of surprises that you (and sometimes I) won't see coming!
GAME REVIEWS- LA Noire; Red Faction Armageddon; Child of Eden; Transformers Dark of the Moon; Green Lantern Rise of the Manhunters and loads more...
GAME NEWS- All the biggest E3 announcements as they come, with a live blog of Nintendo's conference being a strong possibility next Tuesday evening!
FILM REVIEWS- X-Men First Class; Kung Fu Panda 2; Green Lantern; Transformers Dark of the Moon; Paul; The Green Hornet and some exciting other instalments.
TELEVISION (P)REVIEWS- Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes To War rated; the final episodes of Glee reviewed; the winner of Britain's Got Talent revealed and teasers for the UK premiere of new Smallville!
FEATURES- Mid Year Awards; Most Anticipated Awards; Who Won E3; The Best E3 Announcements; Smallville Best & Worst; How The Summer of Film Is Looking and so much more.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg on a sensational month that On-Screen will help to make one to remember!

More E3 Reveals Confirmed

Fresh off the confirmation that Star Wars: Kinect will feature at E3 this year, developers have announced more video games that will appear in the show. Alien: Colonial Marines, developed since 2006 by Gearbox Studios as a true horror sequel to the movies, will debut at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. We can also expect in-game footage of Batman: Arkham City at either Microsoft or Sony's conference from dev Rocksteady Studios, probably involving a reveal or two of major gameplay elements and fan favourite villains who will be making appearances. Finally, Ubisoft are hard at work on an extensive demo of Assassin's Creed: Revelations to show at their own conference, and judging by last year's action-packed Brotherhood reveal we could have something very special on our hands! E3 begins on Monday June 6th.

June 2011: Top 5 Anticipated Releases

May was a great month for entertainment, so we enter June with high expectations and thankfully the line-up looks set to meet them. Why? For starters, this is the month where we get the huge announcements that make video gaming history at E3, the month where Kung Fu Panda and Smallville return to the big and small screens respectively, and most of all this is the month where the Summer of Film kicks into gear...
5. GREEN LANTERN- A lesser known superhero film, DC's latest foray into comic adaptation sees Ryan Renyolds play an unlikely saviour chosen to defend a mighty race of aliens and his own planet from a rising darkness- a sleeper hit?
4. CHILD OF EDEN- Undoubtedly one of the most anticipated Kinect-compatible releases of 2011, Child of Eden is a visual spectacle, a motion controlled shooter that harkens back to the arcade days of Rez and quite possibly could get a place on Game of the Year lists.
3. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON- This is it- the final entry in Michael Bay's epic trilogy. After the rubbish Revenge of the Fallen, no one knows quite what to expect here, but that might work in the director's favour if the finale offers some genuine surprises!
2. DOCTOR WHO- The battle for top spot this month was a hard one, and I can give no logical reason for this missing out on 1st place. What I can say is that A Good Man Goes To War should be a truly momentous episode with the reveals of why Amy's child is important, what happens to the Doctor if you set him up for war and make him angry, and most importantly the secret of River Song...
1. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS- I'll be seeing and exclusively reviewing this tomorrow, and have very high hopes that Matthew Vaughn's much hyped reboot of the dying X-Men franchise does the job right and resurrects a series of such vast potential. And do you know what? I genuinely think it will, and that's a hugely exciting prospect!

May 2011: Best Release

I haven't even got round to reviewing LA Noire yet as it's probably best to try it some more to get a full grasp of the quality of the overall experience, but from what I've played it's high and above everything else I've seen in this packed month. Yes, bodies and locales can look rushed at times and yes, the story is slow-paced and to an extent too forgiving- none of that matters, though, because the experience of interrogating varied and likable suspects makes this a cut above any of the characterisation found in Rockstar's past efforts in Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption to create a sense of empathy in the vastly realistic worlds. Add to that gameplay that while occassionally clunky (mostly in the shooting and driving segments) is extremely intelligent and hugely empowering to the player and you have a class package that eclipses the epic scale of Smallville's finale, the hilarious antics of The Hangover: Part II, the tepid episodic nature of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and even the exciting adventures and twists found in Doctor Who this month. It may not attain Game of the Year status, but that doesn't stop LA Noire from being a sublime gaming experience that has to be played to be believed.

How Nintendo Can Win E3

When Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft enter the E3 arena next week, they need to be at the top of their game. This year, there's no margin for error, and anyone who does slip up will feel the full bruntal force of an angry fanbase. Nintendo appear to have the upper hand with the promised reveals of brand new 3DS titles and ultimately their successor to the Wii, 'Project Cafe', but as seen before things can change in anyone's favour very quickly, so here's what the company need to do to hold their own:
3DS RELEASE DATES- We've been promised new Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts, Assassin's Creed, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, Paper Mario and Professor Layton instalments on the incredible handheld console the 3DS this year, but we've had no mention of release dates yet and if Nintendo want to keep things interesting they need to tell us when we're getting some of these big names in three-dimensional view.
PROJECT CAFE DETAILS- We don't want to see a short tech demo of 'Cafe' which has nothing to do with the final console, so let's have a look at the new and improved graphics of Cafe games, get details on how the console will work and how it will change how we play and finally some footage of titles that potentially could feature in the launch line-up (we won't get that list announced, but speculation could begin here!)
WII SURPRISES- Remember the Wii? Me neither, but apparently it sold quite well! Jokes aside, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword appears to be the only remaining game on the radar for the console right now, and that needs to change at E3: last year, we were told about Metroid: Other M, Goldeneye 007 and Sonic Colours for the first time and recieved them before Christmas, so let's have the same happen here!
MARIO- Like Halo for Microsoft, agile Italian plumber Mario is an iconic relation to Nintendo's work, so if we get more footage of his upcoming 3DS game and with any luck a visually stunning new Cafe and/or Wii title then Nintendo will be the company to beat at E3 next week.
My coverage of all three conferences and the show as a whole will hit next Tuesday.

How Microsoft Can Win E3

When Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft enter the E3 arena next week, they need to be at the top of their game. This year, there's no margin for error, and anyone who does slip up will feel the full brutal force of an angry fanbase. There's no doubting that Microsoft are the proverbial underdogs in the running, currently boasting very little in the way of new hardware or big game announcements, but that's likely about to change, so here's my suggestions of what we should expect/hope for:
MORE KINECT- The launch of the Kinect camera last year was HUGE, forcing thousands of day one sales and tons of happy kids at Christmas, yet since then there's been next to nothing in the way of new games for the peripheral, and so now's the time for Microsoft to reveal all the software they've been at work on. Star Wars: Kinect, Forza Motorsport 4 and the rumoured Gears of War: Exile all need to make appearances here- for a start.
MENTION THE PSN (FLEETINGLY)- Those who write the scripts for these conferences would be fools to not reference a certain network failure in May at the 360 event, but let's be honest, we only need a passing remark that garners a few laughs, not a dramatic emphasis on the strength of Xbox Live (Sony have plenty of evidence against Live already, let's not make them use it).
NEW FRANCHISES- Codename: Kingdoms and Rise of Nightmares both look like promising additions to the world of Xbox 360, but what I really want to see is full gameplay footage of those too and titles with potential to take on the Uncharteds and Mario Galaxys of this generation, franchises that could span into the next generation.
HALO- Quite honestly, if Halo does not feature at all in Microsoft's biggest conference of the year, most of us will suffer from a spontaneous heart attack. Rumour has it we're about to see the reported Halo: Combat Evolved high definition revealed, but as many game analysts have said, the company stands a great chance of winning E3 if they close on a brief trailer for Halo 4 to prove there's still life in the 360 or (and this is an unlikely but if done well massive one) to reveal the next generation of Xbox...

How Sony Can Win E3

When Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft enter the E3 arena next week, they need to be at the top of their game. This year, there's no margin for error, and anyone who does slip up will feel the full bruntal force of an angry fanbase. Here are just a few things Sony could use to win the competition:
BRING THE NGP- The 'Next Generation Portable' was announced earlier in 2011 with the promise of exclusive Uncharted, Little Big Planet and Call of Duty titles- now it's time to show us what they are, and when we can expect them.
MOVE OUT OF DANGER- Ever since its release, the PlayStation Move has all but stood in the shadow of the Wii and Kinect. The only way to convince gamers that they should buy the peripheral is to come out with more hardcore compatible titles like Time Crisis that would work with Move. In fact, I'd wager if Sony got Activision aboard with Modern Warfare 3 supporting it, they could well win the show.
BRING IN NEW FRANCHISES- What has made the PlayStation 3 so special in its era has not been the returns of old favourites such as Ratchet & Clank or Jak & Daxter but the introduction of great new contenders (Uncharted, LBP and Motorstorm being the most notable additions). However, the PS3 seems to hinge on the success of these series and their DLC now, so if it is to survive a few more years we need some iconic new franchises.
MENTION THE NEXT STEP- Nintendo are about to showcase 'Project Cafe', the successor to the Wii that signals the next generation of console gaming, and interesting as the NGP seems it will take a mention of the PS4's development to keep Sony from losing the limelight to Shigeru Miyamoto's guaranteed showstopper.
DON'T MENTION THE PSN- This is an already futile command as I am sure Sony will mention the PlayStation Network shutdown, but so long as they keep it short and make an apology then there will be no problem here!

UK Gaming Charts: 15th-29th May

During On-Screen's hiatus, the UK video games charts have been shaken up a bit by the releases of titles like Dirt 3, Brink and L.A Noire (more on that very soon), so let's take a look at what the line-up is like right now:
7. FIFA 11
2. DIRT 3

Is 3D Better?

Watching movies in not one, not two, but three dimensions seems to be becoming a near compulsory act nowadays, with countless modern blockbusters awkwardly shifted into the format just months before release and bumping up the ticket price as a result. This worrying trend gets more prominent by the year too, to the point that over half of the films you see this Summer are likely to be in 3D- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two, Captain America: The First Avenger, Green Lantern, Final Destination 5, Spy Kids: All The Time In The World and many others have undergone the popular conversion in an effort to attract a wider audience and enhance the viewing experience, and yet I have a feeling that in doing so they may actually acheive the opposite. Take Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, a mediocre romp full of swashbuckling that at best features some compelling setpieces and emotional drama. To its credit, Pirates was shot in 3D rather than being converted in post-production, but all this literally means for the viewer is a few outright blatant in-your-face shots where a sword will seem to come out of the screen or a cannonball towards the audience, however barring a few impressive moments such as these there was little to no use of 3D in the movie, to the extent that myself and the group I came with to watch it had removed our glasses halfway through and found it more pleasant sitting without them. This wouldn't have mattered so much if viewing the film in 3D was the same price as other 2D experiences, but we were paying an extra £2 for the experience alone, and glasses added another £2 for those who didn't bring their own, at which point you're looking at shelling out a tenner rather than a fiver to go and watch a new blockbuster in what seems to be a derogitory format. I can't help but wonder if the three-dimensional viewing experience will (at least in cinemas) meet its end soon, because like me people will start to cop on to the lack of visual substance in the format and start to wonder whether £10 (as opposed to 5) is really a worthwhile investment. Please let me know your thoughts on the much-debated topic!

First Spy Kids 4 Trailer Arrives

Disney Channel fans will perhaps remember the Spy Kids franchise, a series of cruelly overlooked spy movies that aired exclusively on the channel over the last decade. Well, said franchise is making a return this year, and hopefully picking up a few new viewers with a second outing on the big screen, Spy Kids: All The Time In The World. Below is the first trailer for the promising new flick, featuring Jessica Alba as a spy mum who must enlist her kids for the ultimate mission: face off against the sinister Timekeeper! It's typical Disney fanfare, but my gut instict says we may be in for a real treat this August, especially with stars like Ricky Gervais lending a hand and the returns of two secret agents fans will remember well (although truth be said, Danyl Sabrara hasn't aged magnificantly as Juni Cortez!)...the fourth instalment will hit the box office on August 19th.

Monday, 30 May 2011

The Hobbit Titles, Release Dates Revealed

With Peter Jackson and his all-star cast hard at work on the film adaptations of The Hobbit, New Line Pictures have confirmed the titles and release dates of both parts of the anticipated sequel. The first half, set for release in cinemas on December 14th 2012, will be called The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, featuring Gandalf the Grey's recruitment of Bilbo Baggins and a journey encompassing forests, battlefields and an ancient cave which holds a strange golden ring that binds its terrifying owner eternally yet could prove to be the salvation or the end of Middle Earth in days to come. Then, on December 13th 2013, we'll see The Hobbit: There and Back Again hit the box office, as Bilbo must use his newly acquired powers to enter the castle of devilish dragon Smaug and steal back the kingdom of the dwarves, only to find he may set in motion events that if portrayed by the right director could very well span an award-winning trilogy...and if that isn't a shameless plug, I don't know what it is. The line-up of big names who have either lead roles or nostalgia-inducing cameos includes: Martin Freeman; Ian McKellen; Cate Blanchett; Hugo Weaving; Orlando Bloom; Elijah Wood; Ian Holm; Christopher Lee; Andy Serkis; Richard Armitage; Sylvester McCoy; Benedict Cumberbatch; Stephen Fry; James Nesbitt and many more. Look out for the first teaser trailers later this year in the build up to the release of An Unexpected Journey next Christmas.

Doctor Who: Still To Be Resolved...(Part 2)

There's still plenty of threads Steven Moffat has left open for resolution in A Good Man Goes To War and the rest of Season Six, and as the premiere of the former nears closer it's time for some deep investigation:
WHO IS AMY POND? Hear me out- since the character's introduction, Amy has had a crack appear in her wall, the Silence send the TARDIS to her wedding day to explode, the task of returning the Doctor from non-existence after the Big Bang 2 and most recently has been captured by an unknown enemy to produce a baby whose father is unknown, with a Flesh duplicate of her handed to the TARDIS crew to unknowingly stall them long enough for the real Amy to give birth. The question is, what's her significance? Steven Moffat has denied rumours she's River, and I doubt the Doctor would fall in love with River if she's Amy's child, so there must be something else to it, and I have a feeling it's about to come to a head...
WHY DOES RORY KEEP DYING? In Amy's Choice, Cold Blood, Day of the Moon, The Curse of the Black Spot and The Doctor's Wife, Rory Williams seems to die, only to be resurrected in some form. Many writers of this series have said though they cannot be sure, they'd wager Moffat has got something planned that necessitates Mr Pond's numerous demises, and if you can guess a reason I'll be impressed!
WHO SHOT THE DOCTOR? The Moff has said that by the end of this week's episode we will have a "strong theory" of who is inside the Astronaut suit that shoots the 1103 year old Doctor in 2011 USA, but we won't know for sure until the second half of the season airs this Autumn. I would guess it's River as she is in prison for killing a 'good man', but then again she seemed pretty surprised at what happened so perhaps not...
HOW CAN THE DOCTOR SURVIVE? Surprisingly this seems to be one of the questions that no-one is asking and yet is vital to the climax of Series Six, but I'm sure Moffat has a clever way out of Episode 1's shocking twist.
Some other questions to think about: Why is the Eye-Patch Lady making Amy give birth? What does 'the only water in the forest is the river' mean? Why is the Doctor so famous to so many enemies now? What happens if the Doctor gets really angry? And if Amy's house is a two storey building, why are there so many obvious shots of stairs leading to a third floor...?

Star Wars: Kinect Reveal Confirmed For E3

With just one week until the Electronic Entertainment Expo opens, Microsoft have confirmed that Star Wars: Kinect will feature in their press conference. The game, set to be released exclusively on Xbox 360 this Christmas, was first glimpsed in the company's E3 2010 conference but hasn't been seen since, and as such we can expect gameplay footage, screenshots and plot details aplenty in this year's showing and with any luck a definite release date. Microsoft's conference takes place on Monday the 6th of June at 5pm UK time, and I'll be watching it and bringing you full coverage the next day.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Coming Up This Week

There is admittedly less in some ways to expect from this week, but it does feature some highlights and one event in particular should have gamers on the edge of their seats:
E3- Or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest event in video gaming of the year taking place in Los Angeles, with conferences from Microsoft this Monday and Nintendo, Sony, Ubisoft, EA and more on Tuesday (with more to come on succeeding days too!). Expect the next Wii to be revealed, more new Kinect games to be unveiled, the true identity of the PSP 2 and so much more- we'll cover it all later this week!
SMALLVILLE- Although the tenth season ended over a month ago in America, Smallville will begin its climax on UK broadcaster E4 this week with Lazarus, an excellent opening episode to a brilliant final series.
CAMELOT- Nothing to do with Merlin, this US drama starts with the death of King Uther in a double-bill on Channel Four this Friday where the wizard Merlin must find an heir to the throne before Morgana ensnares Camelot in her evil ways of magic!
NEW GAMES- Before the film debuts in cinema, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters arrives on all formats, a spin-off taking place within the DC universe that could very well change how people see movie games. Plus, crazy FPS (thirteen years in the making!) Duke Nukem: Forever and sci-fi destruction shooter Red Faction: Armageddon storm into stores.
NEW FILMS- Kung Fu Panda 2 enters the box office fray this week, and since it'll probably be in cinemas for a while my review of it will probably reach the blog later this month.
On-Screen is taking a break for a day tomorrow (Monday) due to more exams on their way, so at times daily posts won't be as regular, but I can assure you that all the big E3 announcements, new game and television reviews plus lots more will be up on Tuesday afternoon, with Microsoft's and Sony's E3 press conferences covered in detail and Nintendo's forming our first live blog (what is Project Cafe?).

Coming Up This Week

Every Sunday, you'll now be able to find a preview of all that's coming up in the next seven days right here at On-Screen. So, without further ado...
BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT- If you don't feel the presence of television's most popular talent show this week then there's something wrong with you. Every day (including today) up until Saturday 4th June, there are auditions, semi-finals and ultimately the final going on from 7.30-9pm, sure to garner huge ratings and with any luck produce a star from the rather uninspiring candidates.
BUILD UP TO E3- The Electronic Entertainment Expo starts up in full on Monday June 6th, and while my full coverage will be coming later that week for now there's bound to be plenty of exciting announcements and teases for the biggest week in gaming, and I'll have them all here.
NEW FILMS- If you didn't catch my review of The Hangover: Part II on Friday, just know that it's a (rare) fantastic comedy sequel that deserves your cash, but if you'd like a bit more action or indeed animation then look out for X-Men: First Class and Kung Fu Panda 2, the former out Wednesday and the latter previewing for a couple of days.
NEW GAMES- DIRT 3 is out this week and I'm sure racing fans are in for a real treat on the tracks this time around, while Kung Fu Panda 2 is out on all formats and features apparently great Kinect support on Xbox 360!
DOCTOR WHO- If you hadn't already guessed by the fact that my last three posts have referred to this show, this is a big one for me as it's the thrilling mid-season finale A Good Man Goes To War, where the Doctor must raise an army of his past enemies like the Cybermen, Silurians and Sontarans to stop Amy's newborn child being used as a weapon and to save the Ponds- but in her cell, River Song knows this is the day that she tells the Doctor her secret, the day our hero faces his darkest hour...

Doctor Who: Still To Be Resolved...(Part 1)

Ever since his 2008 two-parter Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Steven Moffat has had a long masterplan of where he has wanted to take Doctor Who, and next Saturday with the mid-season finale A Good Man Goes To War we might just start getting answers to some of these half-decade spanning questions that have been raised. Here are just a few niggling dilemmas:
WHO IS RIVER SONG?- Key to Episode 7 is the revelation of River Song's identity, and so far what we know is that she knows the Doctor's true name, finds it natural to kiss him at the end of an adventure and for some reason has been placed in prison for killing "the best man [she]'s ever known". Now, given that River has seen the death of the Doctor (i.e. when he was shot by the Impossible Astronaut), it isn't out of the question to think that she might have a reason to cause it in his future that the Time Lord finds a way out of but so that the timeline is set in motion first, thus forcing her to be taken to prison- but a future prison, so does she turn herself in...?
WHO ARE THE SILENCE?- Perhaps we'll see them again next week, perhaps not, but there was a definitely a sense that the Silence, who somehow destroyed the TARDIS last year specifically on Amy's wedding day and we were told would fall in Series 6, were beaten too easily and in fact had bigger plans in motion. I have a feeling given how crowded next week's line-up looks we may not see them again until the second finale (the big one, Episode 13, which will air in October), but that doesn't mean their presence won't be felt in Episode Seven...
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE LODGER?- No, it hasn't taken me just under a year to work out the relatively simple plot of James Corden's great Who episode, but we saw 'someone's attempt to build a TARDIS' here that had crashlanded, only for it to teleport away...and then the Silence had a ship just like it! Once again, I'd be surprised if we find out the secret of the new time ship in Episode 7, but expect it to crop up again in the second half (and bear in mind one of the later stories does feature Corden again...)
Have a ponder on all that, and we'll be back looking at Amy, Rory's various deaths, the death of the Doctor, the conclusion to Episodes 2 & 6 and lots more later this week!

Doctor Who: The Almost People Review (4.5/5)

First, a bit of honest truth- had it not been for the utterly surprising and somewhat harrowing climax, The Almost People would have scored half a point or a full point lower than it has as the majority of the story tended to retread paths laid out well in the first part rather than build on the hugely empathetic story of human/clone rights that showed so much promise last week. Elements such as Cleaves' blood clot and Jimmy's bond with his son felt just as shoehorned in as they did in The Rebel Flesh, only serving to signpost to an irksomely predictable conflict resolution that we've seen one hundred times before on Who. Thankfully, the cast as a whole was on better form this week (even if I still can't remember the names of some of the human workers), with the workers/Gangers adding tension to what at times was a claustrophobic underground romp, and Matt Smith clearly loved having two Doctors in the room, managing to establish witty and yet later totally relevant banter between the Time Lords. The main problem writer Matthew Graham seemed to face here was where to take what could have been an epic action two-parter but instead turned into a conversation-heavy drama that only picked up in terms of setpieces and grand plot twists in the final ten minutes. But if anyone can help turn a story around, it's Steven Moffat, so it's no wonder this episode will live on in the memories of fans as we discovered the Doctors tricked Amy as to which of them was the 'real' one (and now our Doctor knows about his future death- listen for an off remark before the trio enter the TARDIS), and yet even that was just building up to the shocking revelation that the Amy who has been travelling was in fact a Flesh duplicate glimpsing what was happening to her real self in captivity through the Eye-Patch Lady's various appearances. That we now know Amy is pregnant (and trailers prove she's had the baby now) answers just one of many questions posed this and last season- more on them from me later this week- but I have a feeling some of the darkest turns in the TARDIS crew's lives are coming next week, and going on just what we've seen here I cannot wait!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Glee: Rumours/Prom Queen Review (4.5/5)

The latest two episodes of Glee are both successful in ramping up the ante of the various sub-plots as we head towards the final story of Season Two. Rumours is a noticeably typical episode for the drama, showing off one of the most irksome possibilities in school life by casting Santanna's homosexuality and the surprising situation of dim-witted underdog Sam into light. We get some intriguing new factoids, and the returns of April Rhodes and Will's seemingly vengeful ex boast several questions that will hopefully be answered early next season, but it has to be said that the writer's choice of lesser known songs from the likes of Fleetwood Mac can leave a lot to be desired for those such as me who aren't well versed in the wider world of music. Meanwhile, Prom Queen moves straight to the other side of the spectum for a glossy, inventive spectacle including numbers based on the work of Adele, Abba and even (sigh) Rebecca Black to bring across the key importance the end-of-year event has had on several of the story arcs built this year. Sadly, some of said arcs are sidelined or brought to a disappointing (anti)climax- will Karofsky ever actually reveal his sexual nature, or was his final dance with Kurt a missed last chance at redemption? Worse still, while the episode nearly closed on an effectively sombre note, the writers clearly thought it would be a good idea to throw in an upbeat number despite it having no context with the harrowing events of the second half, and as a result it felt like an utterly wasted opportunity to really let the show resonate emotionally. That said, both episodes were fine showcases of all Glee has to offer, and really add to my enthusiasm for this series and whatever comes next!

Crackdown Review (8/10)

Crackdown is one of those rough gems that no one expects- when it was released way back in 2007, the game as a whole was basically pitched as a bonus to the packaged-in Halo 3 multiplayer beta, but soon enough once fans had moved past that event they found that it in itself was a strong title with plenty of replay value. Despite five years having passed, that still holds true today. This is a toned-down Grand Theft Auto of sorts that isn't afraid to use artistic, cel shaded graphics instead of gritty realism, and isn't afraid to set gamers mundane tasks that harken back to the days when levelling up was enough instead of providing a fully fledged plot. Although this approach has its obvious drawbacks (the repetition is plain to see from the moment you take on multiple objectives), it's actually quite refreshing in an age where paying attention to a storyline can mean long periods of watching cutscenes rather than getting back to the action, and many diehard collectors will find hours upon hours of pointlessly addictive missions to engage in, again like GTA but to a greater extent. What your enjoyment of this will ultimately boil down to is how much of a 'pure' gamer you are at heart, but if you're looking for an open-world shooter with tons of replay value, beautiful visuals and endless potential for fun that only need be played in bursts then look no further than Crackdown.

The Lion King 3D Announced

It's probably fair to assume that you didn't see this one coming- a re-release of classic Disney film The Lion King in 3D has been confirmed to premiere in cinemas for a limited time this Autumn. One of the most memorable animations the company has produced, it was first released in 1994 and this new edition is a perfect way of advertising the upcoming high-definition release of the film on Blu-Ray due early next year, but whether fans will flock to the box office to purchase tickets for a third dimension when the quality of the viewing format is still up to debate remains to be seen. Below is the first trailer for The Lion King 3D.

Forza 4 Cover, Details Revealed

Undoubtedly one of the most anticipated Kinect-compatible releases of 2011, Forza Motorsport 4 should be the ultimate racing experience and an undeniable reason to own an Xbox 360 this Christmas. This week, the game's cover was revealed (as you can see here, boasting the Ferrari 458 Italia as its flagship vehicle), along with new details on what to expect in the package. Owners of Forza 3 will apparently be able to import their game saves provided they didn't delete them from their hard drives, and depending on what level of racing status the player achieved in that game they will be awarded with new cars as gifts to automatically be used in their races. The Top Gear branding on the cover also confirms that the international show- there's an American version as well as our own- will play a part in proceedings, with tracks used by its presenters appearing in select championships and reportedly with Jeremy Clarkson introducing the game's opening cinematic. Clearly, we'll have to wait until E3 on the 6th of June to see the full extent of what developer Turn 10 Studios has to offer us in the new Forza, but judging by what we know there's really no reason to be concerned that they might have rested on their laurels like Activision and EA are sometimes consider to do with Call of Duty and FIFA. Forza Motorsport 4 releases this Autumn.

Ubisoft Announce E3 Line-Up

E3 is just ten days away, and with that in mind third-party video game developer Ubisoft have announced their line-up of titles which will appear in their press conference. A new Raving Rabbids game will be debuted at the conference (but it is not yet known if it will be a mini-game compilation or full entry like Rabbids Go Home), plus the latest entries in the Your Shape and Just Dance franchises will be on show too. For the more hardcore followers of Ubisoft's work, though, the excitement should come in the knowledge that Ghost Recon: Future Soldier- the 2012 shooter now said to feature Kinect compatability- and Assassin's Creed: Revelations- Ezio's final story, also featuring Altair and Desmond- will have gameplay premières and be playable on the showfloor throughout the week starting Monday June 6th. And speaking of Revelations, you can find the first teaser trailer for the new game which promises answers to many questions posed in the AC lore below...

The Hangover: Part II Review (4.5/5)

While Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2.5/5) suffered from a general lack of originality and its unwillingness to divert from a well-established formula, The Hangover: Part II benefits in this respect: yes, the central premise involves a minor character going missing, and yes, the credits photo montage sparks nearly as many as laughs as the feature itself, but it's the way that the anticipated sequel plays on your expectations and manages to craft a surprisingly unpredictable yarn that will, like the original (5/5), keep you guessing and bursting out with laughter until the very end. Justin Bartha gets slightly more screentime as Doug than before, yet again it's Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and the ever-hilarious Zach Galifinakas who steal the show as the Wolfpack, seeking the bride-to-be's brother in the far seedier and darker world of Banghkok whilst trying to discover what happened the night before and who caused their familiar amnesia. Despite a relatively identical structure, Part II features a host of entertaining setpieces in monasteries, tattoo parlours and strip clubs- oh, you just wait until you see what Stu got up to...this film is rated 15 for a reason!- that are just as hysteria-inducing as those found in the first one (if not more so at times) and better still there's a genuine feeling that the scale of the drama and action has been ramped up significantly. Of course, I have to be critical of the movie's format being so noticeably close in form to its predecessor, and at times the speed at which it barrels through its hectic plotline means that most of the promising additions to the cast and a couple of great cameo returnees don't perhaps get the screen attention they deserve, however that these minor complaints are the only ones I can level at The Hangover: Part II prove it is truly a sublime follow-up to 2009's best comedy that gives me hope this Summer of Film will be a satisfying one!

Sunday, 22 May 2011


Hopefully this extended break has been made a little bit more bearable by new news, previews, features and reviews every weekend, but rest assured that when we return on Friday evening, we're really returning- with a bang! As well as a detailed preview of every hijink and announcement that's coming at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3, or rather my predictions as to what we can expect), there'll be plenty of reviews of some of the best entertainment on offer in half term, news on Modern Warfare 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, Take That's Progress concert and lots more. Here's just some of the stuff you can expect very soon:
GAME REVIEWS- LA Noire; Thor God Of Thunder; Ghostbusters Sanctum Of Slime, Dirt 3, Operation Flashpoint Red River and many more titles.
FILM REVIEWS- The Hangover Part II; Kung Fu Panda 2; X-Men First Class; The Green Hornet and more than a few surprises.
TELEVISION REVIEWS- Doctor Who: The Almost People and A Good Man Goes To War, Glee: Rumours, Prom Queen, Funeral and New York and a spoiler-free review of the Smallville UK premiere.
PREVIEWS- Child of Eden; Red Faction Armageddon; E3 Predictions; Deathly Hallows Part 2; Captain America The First Avenger and Torchwood Miracle Day.
NEWS- Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 revealed, more Batman Arkham City details, all the latest gossip on The Avengers, the first reviews of big summer films and plenty of unexpected twists!
On-Screen returns this Friday, May 27th at 4pm, so get ready for a sensational information overload!

Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer Announced

Fans of the popular Skulduggery Pleasant series will be able to see the second trilogy come to its climax this September with the sixth novel, it's been confirmed. Titled Death Bringer, Derek Landy's latest takes the titular hero and Valkyrie into a war of magic when the truth behind Darquesse is revealed and lives are lost to a seemingly unbeatable force of Armageddon. The synopsis for Book 6 is as follows: "Think you've seen anything yet? You haven't. Because the Death Bringer is about to rise...the Necromancers no longer need Valkyrie to be their Death Bringer, and that's a Good Thing. There's just one catch. There's a reason they don't need her any more- they've found their Death Bringer already, the person who will dissolve the doors between life and death. And that's a very, very Bad Thing..." Odds are the return of central baddie Lord Vile in Mortal Coil has something to do with the Necromancers' discovery, but we'll have to wait until this September when Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer releases to find out!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh Review (4.5/5)

The Rebel Flesh is a prime example of Doctor Who confined to corridors and a minimal cast of mostly unknown status where the show can make the best of what it's got and really get you thinking. Sharing similarities with last year's Silurian two-parter yet infinitely better, and written by the man who did Fear Her (Matthew Graham, also known for his Life on Mars work) yet infinitely more complex and thought-provoking, this was an intricately layered opening to a story just as dark as its predecessors, if not more so. Not for the first time this series, Graham's script allowed us to get intimate with the 'characters of the week', genuinely understanding the plight of the Gangers in that they shared the memories and soul of the 'originals', and subsequently the question arose as to which version had more rights and the reprecussions of the human boss taking the initiative and killing one of the clones. Of course, in doing so Cleaves provoked war, which again left this in a similar place to Cold Blood, but in reality I think that Graham has concocted a far more successful yarn with the help of director Julian Simpson, who really achieved a genuine fear factor in the look of the Gangers and the shots used for several of the dark monastery corridors. There was even time for more development in terms of the series arc, as Amy came close to giving away the Doctor's fate, the Eye-Patch Lady appeared once again and the Doctor found himself a Ganger in the ever-so slightly predictable cliffhanger, and from what Steven Moffat has been saying it seems next week's concluding part The Almost People will take the arc even further to the point of leading into the mid-season finale A Good Man Goes To War. My only real gripe was that in terms of the quality of acting while Rachel Cassidy, Mark Bonnar and the other additions to the cast were excellent as their Ganger counterparts, their portrayals of their human selves were somewhat forgettable and did make some parts of the episode feel drawn out. That said, The Rebel Flesh moved at a great pace, a genuinely thrilling Doctor Who story that I'm sure will have an interesting conclusion (to say the least) next week!

The Summer Of Film: Part 2

FRIDAY JULY 15TH: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART TWO- Unless something has gone horribly wrong in the production process, this should be a surefire contender for Film of the Year. Leaving the safety of Dobbt's resting place, Harry, Ron and Hermionie must venture to Gringotts' Bank to find another Horcrux before ultimately returning to their school only to find all-out war has broken out! Not everyone will make it out alive...
FRIDAY JULY 22ND: CAPTAIN AMERICA THE FIRST AVENGER- It's taken years, but we're now about to see the final piece of the Avengers storyline fit together before the 2012 team-up, as Steve Rogers is modified to become the ultimate soldier and must face off against the Red Skull during World War Two!
CARS 2- Although Cars wasn't perhaps the most obvious animation that needed a sequel, this one has sure got the credentials to back itself up, with guest stars like Michael Caine (that makes it an instant win for me) and Owen Wilson. Now let's see whether the plot holds up...
FRIDAY JULY 29TH: COWBOYS & ALIENS- You'd think after those big hitters we'd be given a calmer, tranquil film to soothe the senses, but instead we're getting Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde and dozens of other big names in an epic science-fiction Western romp.
FRIDAY AUGUST 5TH: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES- With possibly the greatest film title in history, this preboot (prequel/reboot) features James Franco as a misguided scientist who realises his team's tampering with animal genetics may have bred a species of apes with intelligence that outmatches their own- enter Andy Serkis as one of said primates...
FRIDAY AUGUST 12TH: FINAL DESTINATION 5- I have to admit that the appeal of this mock-horror franchise started to fade noticaebly in its fourth entry, but I'm always willing to give series another chance (sometimes for the better, sometimes worse) and the appearance of a living embodiment of Death could easily shake things up and make this less predictable than before.
FRIDAY AUGUST 19TH: CONAN THE BARBARIAN- Quite possibly a 3D masterpiece, this Clash of the Titans-esque fantasy features a host of rising stars and a lot of blood (not for the kids...).
THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE- Sure to go down a storm is this big screen continuation of the hilarious TV comedy, taking the lads on a holiday and featuring pranks and nudity galore!
SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD- Not much is known about this sequel to the previously Disney Channel-exclusive franchise, but there's hope as in particular Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over was a great outing and the addition of Jessica Alba to the spy family might liven things up!
All of these great new films, and I haven't even covered some of the lesser-known (but equally promising) entries on their way this Summer, not to mention Johnny English Reborn, Paranormal Activity 3, Puss In Boots, Happy Feet 2- yes, really-, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1, The Muppets, Pirahna 3DD- yes, really-, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked- yes, really, why do you keep asking?-, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse are all on their way in the Autumn and Winter months. In short, book your seats now. Go on, I'll wait...

The Summer Of Film: Part 1

It's finally time to see what this Summer has in store for us in terms of big, spanking new blockbuster movies, and sufficed to say that from now until the end of July there won't be many occassions when there isn't something new and exciting to see at the cinema. Yep, from animated cars to animated pandas, from X-treme origins to X-tra funny comedy romps, there's truly something for everyone here, so without further ado...
THURSDAY MAY 26TH: THE HANGOVER PART II- The Wolfpack is back for a hilarious dose of memory loss on the eve of Stu's wedding sure to result in laughs aplenty.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 3RD: X-MEN FIRST CLASS- James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender lead a cast of up-and-coming names as they hit 1960s USA and form the iconic team to stop the Hellfire Club destroying humanity as the Cold War rages.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 10TH: KUNG FU PANDA 2- The first Kung Fu Panda went down a surprise hit with kids and critics alike, so here's hoping Jack Black keeps the magic going in this star-studded sequel.
SUPER 8- Looking to be the sleeper hit of the Summer, Super 8 is a haunting drama about a group of children filming an alien invasion movie, only to find an extraterrestrial from Area 51 storming their town...
WEDNESDAY JUNE 17TH: GREEN LANTERN- Another possible contender that might sneak up on the superhero genre from behind, Green Lantern's toughest challenge is winning over audiences with its alien world setting, but if Avatar and Thor can do it...
WEDNESDAY JUNE 24TH: BAD TEACHER- Likely one for the girls, this stars Cameron Diaz (so for many guys what I just said might become irrelevant) as a high school teacher with a sassy attitude and a curious intent to use her role to find love. Could be good, could be terrible, who knows?
MONDAY JUNE 29TH: TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON- A suitably epic finale to one of the biggest franchises of the last decade, despite the name of the series this will be a far more character-led adventure with less explosions and Bayhem and more focused drama (ahem).
WEDNESDAY JULY 8TH: ZOOKEEPER- Starring Paul Blart: Mall Cop's Kevin James and the voices of Adam Sandler and Sylvester Stallone, this promising comedy sees James as a troubled zookeeper struggling to find love who is aided by his talking animals (yes, really!)

Friday, 20 May 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Review (2.5/5)

Never has the phrase "same old, same old" been more apt: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is nothing more than a tepid 'Best Of' entry for the rapidly sinking franchise that fails to capture either the dark scale of the last two films or the lighthearted charm and class of the original. Frequently, viewers will find themselves bombarded with key moments and/or gags that have already been shown to death in the extensive marketing campaign and that will garner little more than a snigger or gasp from the audience. Perhaps the worst part in rating a major disappointment as this is the potential greatness that could so easily have been achieved were it not for some elementary errors made in the script, more predictable than ever with twists that myself and many others latched onto way before they came to pass, the directorial process (you will not notice the 3D- the group I watched this with had removed their glasses halfway through, myself included, and if anything it might have improved the image quality) and crucially the casting; there is absolutely no addition to the considerably less star studded line-up who carries any emotional weight and certainly no-one stands any chance of compensating for the departures of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Surprisingly enough, even Johnny Depp's witty and manic turn as Captain Jack Sparrow is beginning to reek of facade, and Geoffrey Rush fares no better as a meaningful protagonist than he did in the third flick. I haven't even mentioned the plot, which unbelievably manages to be more disjointed and silly than ever, throwing in a mish-mash of fantastical concepts so insignificant that they put even the impossible romance of Davy Jones and a gypsee to shame. There are some highlights to speak of, however: Penelope Cruz manages to at least hold her own alongside Depp as feisty flame Angelica, and the opening segment in London town is in true Pirates fashion a bold and oft-hilarious catapult into events that at least sparks our interest in the quest for the Fountain of Youth, but for every moment where the fourth instalment comes close to being average there is an equally uninspiring action sequence or cameo that serves only to unsuccessfully attempt to distract us from a shockingly incohesive storyline. There will, I'm sure, be many who argue that the final score is a bit harsh, and to be fair On Stranger Tides does at least eclipse the atrocities that were Dead Man's Chest (1.5/5) and At World's End (2/5), yet that's little compensation for a movie that does nothing we haven't seen before and as a result proves a thoroughly forgettable start to a Summer full of sequels that hopefully are more original and surprising, lest we be doomed to more wasted opportunities like this in months to come.

Doctor Who Opener Is UK's Most Recorded

Putting to rest a month-spanning debate as to whether Doctor Who's ratings are starting to drop after somewhat disappointing overnight figures, it's been confirmed that the season opener The Impossible Astronaut was in fact the most recorded show in the history of British television. Over 4.1 million viewers taped the episode, which aired on an astonishingly sunny Saturday (April 23rd), watching it later in the evening or during the week and boosting the overall BARB rating up to a brilliant 8.29 million, more than in line with other season premieres like Rose, New Earth, Partners In Crime and The Eleventh Hour. Each week, the ratings seem to have been staying considerably high, with Day of the Moon and The Curse of the Black Spot both veering well into 7 million territory and The Doctor's Wife likely set to do the same. Add to that the timeshift from 6pm (initialy after the dismal Don't Scare The Hare, which garnered so few watchers that it's now been moved to the dead afternoon slot) to 6.45pm and fans should be left in no doubt as to the sheer popularity of Doctor Who maintaining itself with Series Six- and with good reason, as this is proving to be one of the best seasons yet! Who returns in three more episodes- The Rebel Flesh, The Almost People and A Good Man Goes To War- until June 4th when a massive cliffhanger closing Episode Seven will signal a three month hiatus to keep us guessing until the series returns for another half dozen episodes in September.

Gotham City Imposters Announced

Well, here's something you may not have seen coming: Warner Brothers confirmed this week that Gotham City Imposters, a downloadable first-person shooter based in the Batman universe, will retail on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade this Autumn. "Heresy!", I hear fans of the Caped Crusader cry, "Batman doesn't wield guns!" You're dead right, so instead players take on the roles of fans of the Dark Knight and fans of arch-nemesis the Joker in an "unhinged Gotham City overrun by imposters". No game-play details have been revealed yet, but this could well be a crazy, inventive shooter judging by the first artwork shown here, even if it takes some risks with the DC Comics mythology. Somehow, though, I think I'll stick with Arkham City, also out this Autumn and promising over fourty hours of story content alone. Gotham City Imposters will retail in September, while Batman: Arkham City is due out on October 21st.

Stephen Fry Confirmed For The Hobbit

The cast list for The Hobbit, Peter Jackson's two-part adaptation of Tolkien's epic prequel to The Lord of the Rings, has become one name stronger this week with the announcement that Stephen Fry will star in the first movie. Fry- acclaimed for programmes such as A Bit of Fry & Laurie, QI and countless others- will portray the Master of Laketown, a capable but greedy leader who meets Bilbo Baggins, the father of LOTR protagonist Frodo who is here younger and hoping to reclaim lost treasure from the evil dragon Smaug. Speaking on the casting, Peter Jackson said: "In addition to his writing skills, [Stephen]'s a terrific actor and will create a very memorable Master for us." Other big names currently shooting The Hobbit include Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Sylvester McCoy and James Nesbitt, plus we're promised returns from Rings stars Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett. The Hobbit: Part 1 and Part 2 are set for release in December 2012 and December 2013 respectively.

First L.A. Noire Reviews Arrive

Rockstar's latest video game is already going down well with critics: detective thriller LA Noire has averaged a high score of 90% from dozens of reviews, and the praise just keeps flooding in for Team Bondi's stunning new MotionScan technology. Here are just a few opinions on what might well have proven to be one of the best games of this half of 2011:
IGN (8.5/10): "I struggle with LA Noire, because at times I love it, yet it has some notable flaws- amazing pieces don't quite amount to an incredible game. That said, no one's ever played a game like this before and I doubt anyone will again for quite some time!"
GAMESPOT (9/10): "LA Noire's absorbing investigations and intoxicating sense of style make it an unforgettable journey through the seamy side of the City of Angels."
CVG (8.9/10): "More Heavy Rain than GTA, a brilliantly realised world with excellent voice-acting, good driving sections, solid story-telling and the MotionScan face tech is a revolution."
X360 MAGAZINE (9/10): "A fantastic adventure that'll keep you guessing to the end- buy it, expel GTA from your mind and get involved in one of the best video gaming experiences of the year."
LA Noire is out now on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, and hopefully I should have a review up in the next few weeks.

Lisa Edelstein Leaves House

This season of House is already coming to a head as it nears its finale (as proved by its penultimate story After Hours, my review of which will be up later today), and the stakes have just been raised that much higher thanks to Lisa Edelstein's confirmation that she will not reprise her role as Lisa Cuddy in the next series. Edelstein said: "After much consideration, I am moving onward with a combination of disappointment at leaving behind a character I have loved playing for seven years and excitement of the new opportunities in acting and producing that lie ahead". However, with the final episode (Moving On) already shot, it seems that either the crew have kept this departure under wraps and we will see it play out fictionallyt next week, or perhaps Cuddy's absence will be explained in the first episode of Season Eight. If the former possibility comes to pass, then I can only hope the brilliant love interest to everyone's favourite doctor is given a proper send-off, as Edelstein will be truly missed by cast, crew and fans alike. The seventh series of House concludes next Thursday with Moving On on Sky One at 10pm.

New Transformers 3 Clips Released

With just over a month left until its international release in cinemas, Dreamworks Pictures have released two new clips of footage from the anticipated Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Although they certainly leave a lot to be desired (that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley had no acting experience prior to playing Carly has sparked fierce online debate, and her first appearance here probably won't do her any favours), we at least get an indication of the sheer scale of the grand finale of Michael Bay's trilogy, looking to be much more based around individual human groups rather than focusing on slow-mo battles where we still can't see which Transformer is which! My hopes are somewhat high for this if only because the 3D is sure to work a storm and, no matter what the quality of the storyline, director Bay's tense action sequences always have me leaving the auditorium with an adrenaline rush, but after Revenge of the Fallen it's hard not to be a little wary...all the same, we'll find out just how good this is on the film's earlier-than-expected premiere date June 29th.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game Review (9/10)

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter which franchise it touches, the LEGO series manages to make the most of what it’s got and often proves the best tie-in video game for fans to get. This has happened with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman and now Pirates of the Caribbean- truly, this is the best playable representation of the swashbuckling saga and is deserved of both its names. Johnny Depp’s somewhat insane swagger is brought to life perfectly in brick form, and what can be said immediately is that the visuals and animations have had an absolute overhaul sure to please those who have played since the first LEGO Star Wars released back in 2005 (yes, really, it’s been seven years!). Better yet, the gameplay- while still accessible- is much more advanced and as a result compelling, never straying so far as to push away the younger target audience but consistently intelligent and innovative. Of course, as soon as I mention innovation the one gripe that plagues every game based on the beloved building blocks rears its head again; the naysayers will still be able to point out that you know what exactly to expect when you buy this, and yet with great new sections including cannon battles, moonlight curses and spyglass viewing there’s also enough to justify this outing too. Where LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean predictably stumbles most is in its adaptation of the four movies: too often, cut-scenes drag on for far longer than they should, haphazardly throwing in storyboards for flashbacks and frequently lasting for two or three minutes in the many sections of the tepid Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End where story took precedence over action. Worse still, at times in the second and third chapters the game seems to tread water (forgive the pun), lengthening out action sections to make up for the plot overdoses that frequently occur. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with The Curse of the Black Pearl or On Stranger Tides, but more than ever you will need to have watched the films to understand what’s going on and some of the hilarious parodies within. There are also points where the camera gets a little bit unwieldy and the jump distance mechanic is noticeably in need of refinement, marring an otherwise flawless engine, and as per usual there's a nagging sense that for the next entry there's going to need to be some real innovation to keep the franchise steady. That said, for fans of LEGO and/or Pirates of the Caribbean, this is a near-perfect love letter that’s far more of a hidden treasure than it is fool’s gold!

Sherlock: Series Two Episode Titles Confirmed

This autumn is already looking to be packed with television goodness with the return of greats like Doctor Who, Merlin and The X Factor (ahem), but it's with the announcement of the episode titles for the second series of Sherlock that we can be assured we're in for a truly special season. Who head Steven Moffat has scribed A Scandal In Belgravia, a love story combined with mystery that introduces potential romance Irene Adler (recently played by Rachel McAdams in the Robert Downey Jr film), while Mark Gatiss- who wrote hit comedy A League Of Gentlemen- is responsible for The Hounds Of Baskerville, an action-packed adventure full of scares, and Stephen Thompson (see the recent Who episode The Curse of the Black Spot for evidence of his talented scripts) helms the finale The Reichenbach Fall. Notably, in the novelised version of the latter, Sherlock seemingly fell to his death facing his nemesis Professor Moriarty, who was introduced in the final episode of Season One, but perhaps 'seemingly' is the objective word here as that would be a disappointing climax to a promising drama that's still in its youth. Sherlock returns this Autumn on BBC One, and you can catch all the latest updates on the new series right here!

Ubisoft Announce 3D Film Plans

Ubisoft have now set up their own movie firm, the game developer revealed this week. The plan, apparently, is to convert their much-loved franchises like Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon and Assassin's Creed into big screen 3D adaptations, with a script for the latter hoped to be completed by the end of this year so that casting can start in early 2012 and the promotional bandwagon can kick itself into overdrive as fast as possible. There are other unrevealed projects being worked on too, such as the Raving Rabbids animated series entering pre-production soon which doesn't even have a name yet, and of course Ubisoft still have major new games on their way this year and next with Assassin's Creed: Revelations and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier respectively (plus a new Splinter Cell at E3 wouldn't come as a surprise), but this is at least a clear confirmation that we can expect more game-to-film adaptations like Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia: The Sands Of Time in years to come- I can only hope they fare better...

Take That Announce New Album

No matter what your opinion on whether they're just milking the proverbial cash cow, Take That have today revealed that a new extended version of their Progress album is on its way next month in the midst of the band's upcoming live tour. The compilation, Progressed, will feature eight new tracks set to form a part of the sold-out production, including When We Were Young, Beautiful and Love Love, the song that recently premiered at the National Movie Awards and will appear in the credits of X-Men: First Class (I still can't quite see that fitting tonally, but oh well). Thankfully, the new entries on the album will be available to buy separately on iTunes, but that still doesn't change the fact that this will still probably sell by the dozen nevertheless. Take That: Progressed is out on the 13th of June.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 Announced

In the most surprising move of the decade, Traveller's Tales have announced the release of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 for Winter 2011 on all consoles. Encompassing the events of Order of the Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows, managing director Tom Stone promises the sequel is "giving gamers a truly epic conclusion to the most successful movie franchise in history with delightful gameplay for all ages". Better still, the initial press release announcing its development tells of "new faces, new challenges and new magic to challenge a host of new foes and some familiar ones, preparing gamers for the ultimate face-off against Lord Voldemort", so while we perhaps shouldn't expect anything too groundbreaking on the LEGO front (although Years 1-4 did score a magical 8.5/10 last year) we can be sure to fight in the epic Battle of Hogwarts and other major events from films 5-8! LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 will retail on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, 3DS, PSP and Sony's Next Generation Portable this Christmas.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Who: The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People Preview

This week's episode marks the end of the standalone adventures we've been having recently where the TARDIS crew have been running away from fate, both with Amy's seemingly impending pregnancy and the Doctor's seemingly impending demise, and though perhaps the trailer didn't make that seem the case, here's why:
EYE-PATCHES: Make no mistake, the Eye-Patch Lady from Episodes 2 & 3 is back to close that non-existent panel in a wall once again, and that the trailer reveals this before the story may mean she plays a bigger role. What's for sure, expect big developments in the series arc over this two-parter.
AVATARS: Make no mistake, Matthew Graham's gothic adventure into the future takes its premise from James Cameron's 2009 science-fiction phenomenon, featuring humans who can protect themselves by entering near identical avatars called the Flesh. Trouble is, when the humans get their own bodies back, what if the Flesh bodies start to think for themselves...? There could be a revolution, and that's what it's all about.
CLIFF-HANGERS: We're just a couple of weeks away from the final episode of the first half of Series Six, A Good Man Goes To War, and that can only mean that the main arc will develop big time here and we're in for not just a mid-story cliffhanger, but also one to lead into Episode Seven and ultimately a crushing one for us to ponder over three months. Who was that little girl? Who is River? Can the Doctor be saved? Is Amy pregnant? Who is the Eye-Patch lady? What happened to the Silence? Why was their TARDIS on Aickman Road? Don't expect answers in these two, but expect more questions than ever...

Doctor Who: The Doctor's Wife Review (5/5)

Neil Gaiman's first Doctor Who outing starts out just like any other episode- oh, who am I kidding? Before the titles roll, we've had a call from a Time Lord, the return of the Ood and the TARDIS inhabiting deceased-to-be Idris, and that was just the start of what has rightfully been dubbed a fifty minute love letter to fans. Incredibly, although after the opening scenes things did slow down a bit, that running time flew by thanks to fabulous guest star Suranne Jones' immediate on-screen chemistry with the Doctor, constantly moving from bickery and wit to nostalgia and genuine heartbreak as the unlikely couple realised that their time together was limited. Everything was spot on in terms of the soundtrack, CGI and scenery (the junkyard was full of great shots, especially that of the spaceship graveyard), showcasing the darker tone of this year's season through the use of mainly white and green lighting on the message boxes and the Ood sphere respectively. My only criticism of The Doctor's Wife has to be that it went at such a rollocking pace from setpiece to setpiece (the Blue Peter TARDIS, the infinite corridors, the 2005-2010 TARDIS, all within five minutes!) that it was sometimes a touch too difficult to keep up with some of the dialogue and for less attentive viewers to keep track of what was going on. That being said, nothing could have ruined the tragic final scene between Jones and Matt Smith, the latter brilliantly portraying a Doctor deeply saddened to lose a friend he's only just met and yet who has been with him throughout his travels- even at 50 minutes, there wasn't enough time to make such a well-written scene go on longer, but I think in many ways the brevity of their last conversation was the point. I've covered so little of the story as a whole here, but I could go on and on about the strengths of Episode Four, and despite being slower and more thoughtful this more than matches up to its three predecessors, setting an impossibly high standard for the remaining three stories and hopefully serving as an incentive to exec producer Steven Moffat to get Neil Gaiman back on his writing team as soon as possible!

Modern Warfare 3 Confirmed

The Call Of Duty franchise will return this Winter, it has been confirmed, in a new modern instalment. Titled Modern Warfare 3, the sequel has been developed by Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software and is set to premiere at E3. Details of the main campaign have been leaked this week and suggest it will incorporate a storyline where World War Three begins and the player has to race across iconic cities like Berlin, Paris and London (teased in the first trailer below) to stop an all-out nuclear conflict consuming the planet. Co-operative mode Spec Ops is also set to return, along with the online multiplayer and the Zombie Survival mode, according to Kotaku. All will be revealed next month...Modern Warfare 3 will release on November 8th.

Smallville: Finale Review (4.5/5)

Hard as it is to say, Finale is not the perfect way to end Smallville- too many plot arcs get thrown into the mix, the storylines of some characters are ended with a real sense of cop-out and the villains who had been teased as having such large presences in the episode in fact recieved just a few scenes. Predictability rears its head, too, from time to time, as the writers fall back on the same old format of past adventures instead of pulling out many surprises in the way the narrative is constructed. On the other hand, many fans will not care at all about any of those drawbacks because as you can see Clark does indeed don the suit, and the moments leading up (up and away, sorry, couldn't resist) to his first flight as Superman and the reasons behind it are amongst the finest scenes shown in the programme's history- and far too good to spoil here! And that's the quintessential dilemma- you probably won't get to see this until the early days of Winter, and as such unless you find it online it will be a while before you can form your own opinion on the climax, at which point some of you will probably agree with me and others question my sanity at not giving this a 5. What I can say, however, is that as a whole Smallville has been an amazing drama, providing the perfect introduction to the Superman mythology and featuring a superb decade-spanning turn by Tom Welling as a completely believable Clark Kent. You are in for a completely unforgettable ride once the long wait is over, though, so here's a few teasers to make the waiting that much harder:
1. Four series regulars return, two series regulars don't make it out alive, one gets a great cameo.
2. Jonathan Kent's appearance earlier in the series and his return here are explained brilliantly, forming a really emotional plot that actually provides the crux of what Smallville is all about.
3. The story takes place in two different timezones.  
4. It's a long walk down the aisle.
5. More than one classic moment from each season is revisited. 
6. "Great Caesar's Ghost!"
7. For the hardcore fans- yes, John Williams' movie theme tune makes an appearance.
8. "It's time, ***."
9. "I'm saving *** from becoming **."
10. "Always hold on to Smallville."

Friday, 13 May 2011

New Who Video Game Coming 2012

What with The Adventure Games, Evacuation Earth, Return To Earth  and The Mazes Of Time having been released in the last year and multiplayer online adventure Worlds Of Time on its way later in 2011, you'd be forgiven for thinking those helpings were enough to sate the appetites of Doctor Who video gaming fans, and yet BBC Worldwide's Robert Nashak has revealed that another big project based on the science-fiction television show is coming in 2012. Writing on his Twitter account, the EVP for digital entertainment said "Teaser? There's big news for 2012 we can't talk about just yet. Watch this space!" What this new release might encompass is up to speculation right now, but I'd wager that we can expect a next-gen release that has learned from the rubbish Wii tie-in and that features a brand new storyline on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Before that, though, we'll get new information on Worlds Of Time at the San Diego Comic Con in late July, including gameplay details and a release date for the MMORPG. Doctor Who returns tomorrow night with The Doctor's Wife at 6.30pm.

Ashton Kutcher Joins Two And A Half Men

After weeks of uncertainty regarding the status of hit US comedy Two And A Half Men following Charlie Sheen's unexpected departure, it has been confirmed today that Ashton Kutcher will replace Sheen in the show's ninth season. Kutcher, famous for his roles in films like Dude, Where's My Car?, Killers and Valentine's Day, will play a currently unnamed new character in Series 9, set to begin filming this August and première in America in the autumn. Presumably lead protagonist Charlie Harper will be written out in the opening episode thanks to an explanation from returning brother Alan (John Cryer), but as of yet the fictional circumstances of his exit haven't been divulged by the show's producers. Speaking on the announcement of his casting, the actor said "I can't wait to work with this ridiculously talented team and believe we can fill the stage with laugher that will echo in viewers' homes. I can't replace Charlie Sheen but I'm going to work my ass off to entertain the hell out of people!". Look out for my review of the essentially rebooted Two And A Half Men this Autumn.