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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Forza 4- Jeremy Clarkson 'Warthog' Trailer Released

With Kinect support, Top Gear features and the inclusion of an explorable Warthog from Halo 4, Forza Motorsport 4 has quickly been becoming my most anticipated racing game of 2011, and the stunning visuals and tight-as-ever gameplay are of course the icing on the cake! Developer Turn 10 Studios has today released a video that reveals Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson's thoughts on the fictional sci-fi vehicle that Halo fans hold dear, the Warthog. It was previously thought that we'd only get narration from the series' blue AI character Cortana, but hearing Clarkson's comments on "children who spend too much time on their Xbox's" and the like is a warm reminder of the BBC programme's integration into the sequel, as are the inclusions of Car Football and the iconic Test Track recently confirmed by Microsoft Studios! Forza Motorsport 4 is out on October 14th.

Dead Island Launch Trailer Released

After all the controversy that came with its vacation-turned-family slaughter first trailer, it's a surprise to think that Dead Island will make it to shops a week Friday with not so much as a ban in any country worldwide. Still, no matter the height of your surprise at this development, developer Techland have released the launch trailer for the survival role-play game, coming to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. As you can see, it's violent and very gritty stuff, not for the faint of heart and definitely not a nice Christmas present for the kids. I'll post what the critics are saying early next week. Dead Island is out September 9th.

Torchwood: Prequel Novel Reviews

Did you ever wonder what Gwen and Rhys, Suzie Costello and Rex got up to before their antics in Miracle Day? Me neither, but nevertheless BBC Books have given us three prequel novels to show us just that, and having read them all I'm struggling to see why they bothered...
TORCHWOOD: FIRST BORN (2.5/5)- A fairly rudimentary romp through the Welsh countryside, this one sees Gwen and Rhys Williams escape prosecution from their government along with their baby Anwen, only to discover that their idyllic new residence houses a society full of danger and darkness. It seems like a potential premise for creepy goings-on, but First Born never quite lives up to its potential, especially as the prequels don't tie into the main season so everything feels unfinished.
TORCHWOOD: LONG TIME DEAD (3/5)- Suzie Costello's return from the dead in the remains of the Torchwood Hub actually manages to be the most eventful of the three stories, even if it is tiresomely predictable stuff and Suzie's character is the only interesting one to be found. Author Sarah Pingbrough plays with some great concepts of life and death, and as a bonus clearly gets the Torchwood continuity, but a reference or two to the 'old team' can't help mask what is still barely above average storytelling.
TORCHWOOD: THE MEN WHO SOLD THE WORLD (1/5)- By far the worst of the new trilogy, and in fact one of the worst books I've read in a while, The Men Who Sold The World follows Rex as he traces stolen Torchwood cargo pre-Miracle and meets the elusive Mr Wynter. The prologue promises us an intriguing tale of time travel and paradoxes, but what we get is so basic yet unbelievably convoluted that you'll struggle to recall what's going on even if you put the book down for five minutes! In other words, avoid at all costs!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution- Is It Better Than...

TOM CLANCY'S SPLINTER CELL CONVICTION? Yes. Though Conviction undoubtedly had a great co-op mode to play offline or online, its main single-player campaign was pretty lacklustre, and Deus Ex's game world offers far more hidden incentives to explore and learn about. Go to Conviction if you want a tight, spy thriller, but go to Human Revolution for a rich science-fiction epic.
MASS EFFECT 2? Sadly for Human Revolution, this one's hardly a competiton at all: Mass Effect 2 was the pinnacle of sci-fi storytelling, tight RPG shooting mechanics, intelligent AI and above all a real sense of consequence in the choices you made regarding your team and the storyline. A firm no on that one, then.
PORTAL 2? Even though the genres of this and Deus Ex are completely seperated bar the sci-fi theme, it's still no competition: Portal 2 remains the best video game I've played this year so far, and even the big titles like Batman: Arkham City, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Battlefield 3 and Halo: Anniversary are going to have to do a lot to top the fun I had with Wheatley, GLADOS and Chell in Aperture Labs in the cold days of Spring. If, however, Human Revolution were to fix its AI problems and add a little more depth to its world and characters, it might then stand a better chance of matching Valve's stellar puzzle shooter.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review (9/10)

Ever felt like a game you're playing is literally on the verge of greatness, but ultimately held back by a few completely preventable shortcomings? That feeling was present throughout my playtime with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a role-play shooter so accomplished in many ways that its flaws seem all the more criminal. Human Revolution takes place in the 2027, fifteen years from now and a twenty-five year prequel to the original 2001 game for PS2 and Xbox. The setting of a cyberpunk world on the brink of new augmentation technology is perfectly rendered, a masterful graphical blend of yellows and blacks, and a world brimming with life and things to do. Or so it first seems...You see, at first the game's two city hubs, Detroit and Hengsha, appear to herald infinite possibilities in terms of the gameplay choices that can be made on a surprising level and the interaction with their various citizens. However, dig deeper and you'll realise that scripted dialogue quickly repeats itself amongst Earth's finest hobos and rioters, and that no matter what choices you make along the way to finding the truth behind your character Adam Jensen's brutal near-death experience, you'll always end up at the same point accomplishing the same objective in the same way. Especially on the first play of Deus Ex, this won't be very apparent, and that the storyline alone spans a good twenty hours of playtime makes it unlikely you'll return to the whole game again in a hurry and thus you may not notice this drawback. Yet part of what makes any Game of the Year contender (something Eidos and Square Enix strive so hard for this to be, but inevitably fail to acheive because of the genre's trappings) so special is its effortless replay value and memorable setpieces, and innovative as this one is there's very little in the way of either of these. The gameplay itself is easily the strongest part of Human Revolution, refined to the point that you can use Stealth, Combat or Social approaches in every situation, bar four (I'll come to those instances in a minute). To have such options on offer at such regular intervals would usually be unheard of in a game, so that Deus Ex manages to do so with such ease is all the more testamony to the work the developers clearly put into making the experience seamless no matter your style of play. It's tragic, then, that the aforementioned points where choice doesn't factor, the major four boss battles, are so terribly juxtaposed with the sense of variety that they threaten to ruin one's enjoyment of the rest of the experience. Truly, to be forced into combat with these predictable AI megamoths is a task of endurance, nothing less, especially if you chose to play the stealthy route and are left with little ammo to tackle said baddies, resorting to trial-and-error tactics to fool the antagonists. I'd love to say that the word 'fool' here means to cleverly outwit an intelligent AI system, but nothing could be further from the truth. On too many occassions was I able to back away from an all-out firefight, hide in an obvious piece of cover and simply wait it out until the enemies moved back to their regular patrols rather than attempt to track where I ran off to. It's a common shortcoming in game design nowadays, even affecting the best of 'em like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Red Dead Redemption, but at least their developers had the sense to ensure that the awkward battle scenarios were mixed up with innovative setpieces like detective work and tense draw-first Wild West shootouts rather than pitting us up against the dumb AI at every corner. Deus Ex: Human Revolution does the latter, so can't come close to matching the high precedent set recently by those gaming legends. As I've said before this year, the titles which make it onto the Game of the Year nominee list have to boast a killer storyline, a rich and memorable world and above all the incentive, be it through the quality of the first playthrough or additional missions and challenge modes, to replay them time and time again. Deus Ex: Human Revolution succeeds and struggles on each of these fronts: the story apes that of a summer blockbuster sci-fi, with all the pros and cons that come with them, its world is undoubtedly packed with detail and heart yet can't help showing cracks in its near-perfection, and while the first playthrough does undoubtedly make an impact uncommon to most of the year's gaming releases so far, even with the multiple endings (that can be accessed simply by loading a save game) there's nothing compelling enough to bring you back to this one unless you're a hardcore Deus Ex fans, and as far as I understand it it's got more of a 'cult following' rather than a fanbase of Star Wars or Doctor Who's magnitude. Portal 2 easily earned its place on the GotY nominees list, but Human Revolution is likely to be long remembered as a game which strived for such an accolade, yet made elementary errors along the way and as such didn't meet the top rivals of the pack. By all means go out and buy it if you've been dismayed at the lack of hardcore releases since January, but don't let the hype created by fans of the allegedly superb original game- this is a very solid foundation for future prequels rather than a groundbreaking game-changer.

UK Film Charts: August 22nd-28th

Once again, The Inbetweeners Movie reigns dominant over the British box office this week, now with the esteemed title of the best-selling UK produced comedy ever. Elsewhere, romance drama One Day, horror sequel Final Destination 5 and bloody remake Conan The Barbarian enter the charts at very strong positions- and it's a good thing, too, as the Top 10 films are some of the only great ones we'll get now until November...

Coming Up For On-Screen In September

As the Autumn of Gaming begins in full force, you should be prepared for a packed month full of great new titles, plus loads of exciting entertainment releases across the spectrum. Here's everything you can expect here at the blog!
FILM REVIEWS- Virtually no new movies at the box office this month, but I'll be watching Rango; The Green Hornet; Attack The Block and plenty more DVD releases...
GAME REVIEWS- Driver: San Francisco; Gears of War 3 and X-Men: Destiny head up a blitz of titles on their way in the coming four weeks, so I'm going to play each of them and rate them as fast as possible.
BOOK REVIEWS- Torchwood: First Born, Long Time Dead and The Men Who Sold The World; CHERUB: People's Republic; The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; Skulduggery Pleasant: Death-Bringer and The Lorien Legacies: The Power Of Six- the full verdicts on them all!
TELEVISION COVERAGE- The final episodes of Miracle Day reviewed; the next four adventures of Doctor Who rated; as well as the first verdict on new Two & A Half Men, Glee and An Idiot Abroad...
PREVIEWS- All the details on the latest Who instalments, and first looks at Battlefield 3, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Sonic Generations, Batman: Arkham City, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and dozens of other titles world exclusive from GAMEFest!
FEATURES- My world-exclusive first impressions of the Pottermore website; a look at everything 2012 holds for entertainment and oh so much more in On-Screen's biggest and best month yet...

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

September 2011: The Release Dates

Want to know when a new game, film, TV show or book arrives this month? Here are all the release dates you should look out for. UPDATE: This list has now got the airdates for Modern Family, Spooks, Glee and An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List on it, keep an eye on the blog for the UK Two & A Half Men, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Merlin airdates very soon!
THURSDAY 1ST- Books: Skulduggery Pleasant: Death-Bringer; TV: Torchwood: End of the Road
FRIDAY 2ND- Movies: Fright Night; Apollo 18; Shark Night; TV: Outnumbered Episode 1; Games: Driver: San Francisco; Madden NFL 12
SATURDAY 3RD- TV: Doctor Who: Night Terrors
TUESDAY 6TH- TV: Smallville: Masquerade
THURSDAY 8TH- TV: Torchwood: The Gathering
FRIDAY 9TH- TV: Outnumbered Episode 2; Games: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine; Resistance 3; StarFox 64 3D; Dead Island; Rise of Nightmares
SATURDAY 10TH- TV: Doctor Who: The Girl Who Waited
TUESDAY 13TH- TV: Smallville: Fortune
THURSDAY 15TH- TV: Torchwood: The Blood Line
FRIDAY 16TH- Movies: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Lion King 3D TV: Outnumbered Episode 3
SATURDAY 17TH- TV: Doctor Who: The God Complex
SUNDAY 18TH- TV: Spooks: Episode 1
MONDAY 19TH- TV: Two & A Half Men Episode 1 (US Airing)
TUESDAY 20TH- Games: Gears of War 3; TV: Smallville: Scion; Two & A Half Men Episode 1 (UK Airing)
THURSDAY 22ND- TV: Glee: The Purple Piano Project
FRIDAY 23RD- Movies: Abduction; Dolphin Tale; Games: F1 2011; TV: An Idiot Abroad Episode 1; Modern Family Episode 1; Outnumbered Episode 4
SATURDAY 24TH- TV: Doctor Who: Closing Time
SUNDAY 25TH- TV: Spooks Episode 2
TUESDAY 27TH- TV: Smallville: Kent
THURSDAY 29TH- Books: Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By; TV: Glee Episode 2
FRIDAY 30TH- Games: X-Men: Destiny; FIFA 12; TV: An Idiot Abroad Episode 2; Outnumbered Episode 5; Modern Family Episode 2

September 2011: Top 5 Most Anticipated Releases

It's rare my anticipation for a book will outdo every other entertainment release in an upcoming month, but there's something special about the Skulduggery Pleasant series that puts the new instalment Death-Bringer above everything else out in September for my Most Wanted list. That said, there are a good few other exciting titles to look out for this month...
5. GEARS OF WAR 3- Microsoft's 360-exclusive shooter storms its way into the Autumn of Gaming, packing an epic storyline to conclude the trilogy and a sensational set of multiplayer modes including the revamped Horde 2.0.
4. AN IDIOT ABROAD 2: THE BUCKET LIST- When Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant sent their pal Karl Pilkington across the world in eight international episodes of television last year, little did I know it would become one of my favourite comedy documentaries in a long time. As such, the second series of the show can't come soon enough!
3. TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY- We're nearing the end...Jack, Gwen and the new team must race against time to find Angelo and stop the rise of the Families in the final three episodes of Season Four, but what terrible sacrifices will have to be made to stop the Miracle once and for all?
2. DOCTOR WHO- There are a few more exciting standalone adventures for the Doctor, Amy and Rory to face- Night Terrors, a creepy trip into a council estate haunted by a little boy's fearful dolls; The Girl Who Waited, a timey wimey, Amy-centric episode which deals with Ms Pond's past, present and future; The God Complex, a dangerous tale of a shape-shifting hotel filled with nightmarish creatures including the Weeping Angels and a Minatour, plus starring David Walliams; and Closing Time, a return to James Corden's Craig Owens' home made necessary when the Cybermen attack. And of course we'll be getting a few hints at where things will head in The Wedding of River Song too!
1. SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT: DEATH-BRINGER- Guaranteed to be a witty and hilarious sixth instalment in Derek Landy's oh-so-brilliant fantasy series of teen novels, Death-Bringer sees Skulduggery and Valkyrie fight with the planet at stake as their foes find someone who can take Darquesse's place as the trigger of the apocalypse...

August 2011: Best Release

I predicted at the beginning of this month that these last four weeks would be full of sleeper hits, and that theory has been thoroughly proven by the likes of Super 8, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler, Torchwood: The Categories of Life, but none more so than Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a stunning cinematic experience fuelled by groundbreaking computer animation, an accessible yet touching reboot storyline and most of all a heart and soul uncommon to most summer blockbusters. Andy Serkis is the star of the show here, more than worthy of the accolades he is sure to recieve for his portrayal of growing ape Caesar, and while James Franco doesn't quite match his role in 127 Hours (4.5/5), he's a great protagonist through whose eyes we can truly see and empathise with the plight of the primates, and all that ultimately drives them to rebel and begin to take their destiny as the rulers of the Earth. I thought Super 8's masterfully crafted sci-fi throwback to the 80s would easily bag it this month's Best Release award and make it a surefire contender for Film of the Year, but Rise is just as big a rival, besting the big Summer names like Harry Potter and Transformers while setting an amazing precedent for a potential hit franchise to come...make it your mission to see this, at the cinema, on DVD, just somewhere, some day soon!

Autumn Of Gaming- September

This coming month is a notable opener to the Autumn of Gaming, packing loads of big releases that, while perhaps not guaranteed to be this year's big sellers, will please all of their wide fanbases and probably newcomers who choose to take a dive too. If you're one of the latter, don't worry: you've probably noticed there's been very little out in the last eight months, but now pretty much whatever you choose is a surefire way to have fun whiling away your life on. Here's every title you can expect to see this month...
DRIVER: SAN FRANCISCO- If you've ever wanted to switch between cars on the fly mid-race, then Driver: San Francisco is where you should head. The plot is your average popcorn blockbuster fare, yet there's a superb thrill from making use of such an innovative driving gimmick!
MADDEN NFL 12- Who wants to play some American Football?!? Not me, personally, but if that's your sort of thing then this is just as suitable as ever. Don't expect huge strides forward, though.
DEAD ISLAND- Remember that controversial video of a family being ruthlessly slaughted by zombies in reverse time? It was for this exciting survival role-play game, taking place on a summer vacation island where the visitors find themselves plagued by an undead infestation. Not Game of the Year material, perhaps, but a fun diversion from the predictable RPGs like Fallout and Elder Scrolls where you know what you're getting.
WARHAMMER 40,000: SPACE MARINE- A supreme hack-and-slasher, this one's plot is definitely for hardcore Warhammer fans, every bit as convoluted as the strategy game, but if you're keen on Gears of War and Bayonetta this'll be right up your street.
RESISTANCE 3- One of Sony's biggest PS3 exclusives of the year, the Resistance franchise has always set the bar for first person shooters, so this epic finale should be a big one to look out for!
STARFOX 64 3D- This one's a Nintendo 3DS exclusive, a remake of StarFox 64. That was an epic flying and shooting title in its day, however the real question is will it hold up in 2011?
RISE OF NIGHTMARES- Lo and behold, we have a new Kinect game! Rated 18 for good reason, this hack-and-slasher sees players investigate a haunted house filled with your worst nightmares...expect a little bit of lag, apparently, but violent and satisfying fun nonetheless.
GEARS OF WAR 3- And of course this is Microsoft's "look what we've got on our console" exclusive for the year, deliciously gruesome shooting with an epic sci-fi plot tagged on, and of course one of the best multiplayer modes in recent times.
F1 2011- A great racer improved, the latest Formula One game boasts the best aesthetics and gameplay features yet!
FIFA 12- Expect this one to garner big sales no matter what your opinion of it. The latest FIFA has even deeper gameplay innovations, better graphics than any other sports game and improved Be A Pro modes.
X-MEN: DESTINY- This one is sadly looking to be a bit of a repetitive shambles so far, as Marvel seem to have poured most of their efforts into October's Spider-Man: Edge of Time. However, X-Men fans will undoubtedly love the various continuity references and the multiple alliance paths on offer here.
MY POTENTIAL BEST GAME FOR SEPTEMBER- I would wager the battle here is between Gears and Resistance, and via GAMEFest and later plays I hope to give you a definitive verdict on which one wins out later in September!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review (5/5)

If there's one thing August has proved, it's that sometimes the best releases are the ones you don't expect. The Summer of Film up until this month had, to an extent, been fairly disappointing, with only X-Men: First Class and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two managing to stand out in a wave of merely good sequels, and even then neither of them looking to be contenders for 'Best 2011 Film'. Yet in the space of one month, we've had two sure-fire contenders for that coveted award: Super 8, and now Rise of the Planet of the Apes, an absolutely superb fantasy movie that at its heart is the story of animal mistreatment by our race ultimately leading towards our own downfall. It's undoubtedly a reboot, completely accessible to newcomers such as myself in that it doesn't tie us down with a convoluted time-travel story, instead following genetically modified ape Caesar's journey from loved household pet and friend to the enraged leader of a revolution. That we spend so much time in the perspective of Caesar throughout really helps to create a sense of innovation and originality not seen in many flicks this Summer, especially with the use of subtitles as the primates use sign language to communicate. Indeed, it's the incredible characterisations and above all the CGI which will win this film awards: Andy Serkis is simply perfect in his animated guise as Caesar, mimicking the motions and facial gestures of the character in such a way that has not been seen since his turn as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings almost a whole decade ago. Were it not for this, Rise would actually seem a much weaker viewing, as bar James Franco- who gives us a memorable protagonist attempting to deal with his father's Alzheimers and taking an emotional journey as he realises he has abandoned Caesar and thus created the planet's own undoing- most of the cast give unrealistic portrayals, often bordering on the theatrical (Tom Felton has yet to learn how to move past the melodramatics of his Draco Malfoy). This was the case in Super 8, too, and just as with that film the perks of Rise are such strong arguments for it that they easily outdo its shortcomings. Inevitably, the writers leave several strands of the plot open so that we can move closer to the story arc of the classic 1960s-80s series, and obviously to building the titular planet where the apes rule over us, and while it does thus feel like it's lacking closure, I would be very happy to have us return to the franchise as soon as possible provided that the heart and soul of Rise remain intact. In short, Rise of the Planet of the Apes does have its drawbacks, mostly regarding the overdramatised characters bar Franco's and the apes, but the stunning CGI, the heart and soul injected into its superb storyline and the brilliant balancing of drama and action ensure that these are barely noticable, and as such the film's two-hour running time races by and a return to this planet would be wholly welcome, preferably sooner rather than later!

UK Gaming Charts: 22nd-28th August

There is mercy in the world! Zumba Fitness has reigned dominant over the UK Gaming Charts for ten weeks now with so little releasing on consoles this Summer, but thanks to a hefty marketing campaign and by and large word-of-mouth, new shooter/RPG Deus Ex: Human Revolution has bested its rivals and shoved Zumba off the top spot. Having played through roughly nine tenths of Deus Ex, I can confirm it more than deserves its opening weekend popularity. It's not brimming in replay value or boasting the same depth as the likes of Elder Scrolls and Fallout, with a more linear outset that will probaly prevent it reaching the 9.5 or 10 mark required to attain 'Game of the Year contender' status here at the blog, but it's a rollocking fun romp that should keep fans and newcomers alike captivated throughout!  Rugby World Cup 2011 was another newcomer, making it to third place in just two days, and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood returns to the charts, possibly as fans who missed out on the supposed semi-sequel want to catch up on the series' continuity before Revelations arrives in November...
8. DIRT 3
7. FIFA 11
6. CARS 2

Mass Effect 3 Is The End For Commander Shephard

Mass Effect 3 is pretty much the most anticipated game of 2012, but fans of the franchise may be sad to hear that the title will mark the end for series protagonist Commander Shephard. BioWare CEO Ray Mazuka told PC Gamer: "Mass Effect 3 is simultaneously a couple of things; a thrilling and epic conclusion to the trilogy as we promised our fans we'd provide for Commander Shephard, but it's also a brand new beginning- an entry point for new fans." Mazuka confirmed that BioWare will, however, want to continue the series beyond Shephard's departure, stating the company has "ambitious plans to continue this franchise going forward." I'll be bringing you the first world exclusive hands-on verdict with the game next month, then you can purchase Mass Effect 3 worldwide on March 6th, 2012!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Who: Night Terrors Preview

It's time for further adventures in time and space with the Doctor, then, and even though we know his death day is impending, this week's Mark Gatiss-penned episode takes us firmly off the beaten track of the story arc, into a modern council estate...
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE- Little George is having trouble sleeping. Everything in his block of flats scares him- the landlord, the financial pressures of life, the things in his cupboard...so deep is his fear, it reaches out to the TARDIS and breaches the Doctor's psychic paper. Sure enough, the Doc, Amy and Rory come flying to the rescue!
MONSTERS IN THE CUPBOARD- Those creepy doll figures you glimpsed in the 'Next Time' trailer are the episodes' baddies, come to wreak havoc on the estate and put the entire world at risk. Danny Mays plays George's father, who aids the Doctor in calming George's fears.
MURDER ON THE WAY- Don't expect many hints of what's to come in the final days of the Doctor here, but Matt has hinted that we might get another glimpse of what River's up to towards this story's conclusion!
Doctor Who: Night Terrors airs this Saturday at 7pm on BBC One!

The Hunger Games Teaser Trailer Released

We're moving closer to the 2012 film version of The Hunger Games, a novel adaptation my anticipation for which trails only behind The Hobbit. It's set in a post apocalyptic world, and sees young Katniss Everdeen agree to take her sister's place in the annual Hunger Games, a bitter televised competition in which the rules are simple: kill, or be killed! Can Katniss best the odds and win the competition? Here's the first trailer for the movie, which stars Jennifer Lawrence, Joe Hutchinson and Liam Hemsworth and is due out next March...

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Sky Synopsis Revealed

The British Film Institute has confirmed that its Southbank venue will play host to a screening of the first two episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures' fifth season next month, and with this has come the synopsis for the two-part story. Titled Sky, the adventure was originally set to open Series 5, three stories out of the six scripts of which were recorded before Elisabeth Sladen passed away and which will transmit this Autumn, with the other recorded stories The Curse of Clyde Langer and The Man Who Wasn't There originally intended to continue and close the six-story run. BFI Southbank will hold the screening on Friday the 16th of September at 6.30pm, with a question and answer session with the cast and crew taking place there afterwards. The synopsis for Sky is as follows: "Sarah-Jane discovers a baby on her doorstep, but, with reports of a 'Metal Man' falling from the sky, she is convinced that there's more to the baby than it seems..." It sounds like a good watch, and a fitting tribute to Ms. Sladen too. Sky and the rest of Series Five will air on BBC One this Autumn.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Series 4 DVD Revealed

As well as seeing the final six episodes of the programme on CBBC One this October, we'll be getting the fourth season of The Sarah Jane Adventures (starring the late Elisabeth Sladen) in its entirety on DVD and Blu-Ray. That means you can relive The Nightmare Man, The Vault Of Secrets, Death of the Doctor, The Empty Planet, Lost in Time and Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith, a very strong run of stories to be sure! Plus, as a special bonus, we'll get a free copy of the classic 1975 Doctor Who story Pyramids of Mars, which starred Lis and will act as a memorable tribute to the talented actress and her character. At just £30, this pack is an absolute bargain, and that price tends to decrease dramatically when you go to supermarkets or online retailers, making this set an absolute must have. Don't forget, of course, that new SJA is on its way too: before Elisabeth passed, she and the gang had filmed the series opener, Sky, a story called The Curse of Clyde Langer and the season finale The Man Who Wasn't There, all set to air this October. The set, meanwhile, will be out October 31st (there i sa chance those three stories will be dubbed part of Series Four and included, but don't take my word for it).

UK Music Charts: August 22nd-28th

Olly Murs' new single Heart Skips A Beat has raced to the number one spot on our music charts this week! Elsewhere, things remain relatively similar to before, with the likes of Wretch 32 and Calvin Harris merely moving one or two places, but as ever you can be sure that within a fortnight everything will be quite different...
10. David Guetta feat. Taio Cruz & Ludcrisis: LITTLE BAD GIRL
9. Ed Sheeran: THE A-TEAM
7. Emili Sandi: HEAVEN
6. Christina Perri: JAR OF HEARTS
5. Will Young: JEALOUSY
4. Wretch 42 feat. Josh Kumra: DON'T GO
3. Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguleira: MOVES LIKE JAGGER
2. Calvin Harris: FEEL SO CLOSE
1. Olly Murs feat. Rizzle Kicks: HEART SKIPS A BEAT

Coming Up This Week

So, another week of entertainment, but what exactly lies within it? Not as much as recently, if I'm honest, although there are some very interesting new releases still to watch out for...
NEW SHOWS- The great BBC family comedy Outnumbered is back for a fourth season this Friday, as is Five's innovative The Gadget Show, while Clark faces an old foe reborn in Smallville: Beacon, Jack meets Angelo and discovers the purpose of the Miracle in Torchwood: End of the Line and the Doctor must save George from the monsters that emerge from his cupboard in Doctor Who: Night Terrors...
NEW MOVIES- There doesn't seem to be anything on the scale of Potter, Super 8 or Apes this week, but you catch up with your horror fix via Fright Night (starring Colin Farrell and David Tennant) and Apollo 18, both out on Thursday. And if you didn't catch them at the cinema, then you can now see Hanna, Hop, Beastly and Something Borrowed, all out on DVD tomorrow. 
NEW GAMES- Nothing here eclipses last week's Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which is great, even before my review I'd highly recommend it). That said, Madden NFL 12 and Driver: San Francisco should easily please their respective fanbases when they hit stores this Friday.
SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT- Easily my most anticipated read of 2011, Skulduggery Pleasant: Death-Bringer arrives here on Thursday, and brings a dark, foreboding sentiment of doom for our heroes when the antagonists manage to find someone other than Valkyrie to bring about the apocalypse. Look out for this one!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler Review (5/5)

I'm going to be brutally honest here for a second: although I enjoyed the first seven episodes of this sixth season of Doctor Who, particularly Day of the Moon, The Doctor's Wife and A Good Man Goes To War, as a whole they seemed to indicate that this series would not match the generally high standard of last year's run, with the ambitious story arc creating a jarring feel when it was hastily chucked in to the climaxes of what should have been standalone stories. However, based on tonight's episode, Let's Kill Hitler, standalone in many ways yet inevitably answering questions from Part 1 and posing more for Part 2, if the standard remains at that set in Episode 8 then this season will easily match or top Series 5! We opened with a recap of Part 1, then were thrust straight into crop circle mysteries, the introduction of 'Mels' (I'd copped onto who she was before her reveal as River, but nevertheless it was very satisfying!) and the TARDIS crash landing in 1930s Berlin. Yes, the title was a blatant attempt to gain publicity and controversy rather than an important element of the storyline, but I was still very pleased with the interpretation of pre-war Germany, and despite the rumours Hitler was indeed regarded as amongst the most terrible villains in history- the Doctor's statement that "It really was an accident!" with regards to not killing Adolf really strikes a chord, and the Time Lord can barely look Hitler in the face before having Rory land a punch and shut him in a cupboard. Quickly, we moved on to a flurry of regenerations, revelations about River's timey-wimey teenage years and surprising arc developments (so those creatures in Episode 1/2 weren't the Silence as a whole...then who was the voice in the exploding TARDIS in The Pandorica Opens?), all of which were handled brilliantly both by Steven Moffat's hugely intelligent script- the scene where River tries to kill the Doctor and we see him plot out his survival was very remniscent of Sherlock- and the cast as a whole, with Matt and Alex Kingston giving their best performances so far as the Doctor and River. It really felt gratuitous to actually get some concrete answers on key questions like what the Silence is , what 'Silence will fall' means and how River learnt to fly the TARDIS, plus possibly how she learnt the Doctor's true name (did he whisper that too when he was dying?), and that the episode was so focused on that helped. Of course, this did make the 'monsters of the week' feel a little rudimentary, only really serving to stop River long enough to confirm that she seems poised to kill the Doctor by Lake Silencio in America in 2011 and to relay this information to the TARDIS' control screen. The CGI Terrelacta bots looked decent, even if like Prisoner Zero in The Eleventh Hour they were just acting as some evil/comedy filler and reeked of Meet Dave, but that they were realistic enough added to the cinematic feel common in this season. I could go on about why this episode managed to so easily overshadow its shortcomings, but you've seen for yourself tonight- this is one of the best pieces of television I've seen this year, easily the best episode of 2011 Who so far and a perfect set-up for the remainder of the series!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Jurassic Park Returns To Cinemas In September

Universal Pictures have announced today that the original Jurassic Park film will return to the big screen here in the UK for a limited time next month. Timed to coincide with the release of the JP trilogy on Blu-Ray on October 24th, the re-release of the 1993 movie will be the digitally remastered version found on the DVD package, although the special effects won't have been changed by Steven Spielberg's team and mercifully, 3D won't be an optional extra like many re-releases seem to be doing right now (Star Wars, Titanic, Grease, The Lion King...). Jurassic Park hits our box office on September 23rd!

EXCLUSIVE: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Impressions

Probably the most anticipated role-play shooter of the year has arrived...yes, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is in stores now. I've spent a few hours wading through the first few missions, but in all honesty most of that time was spent on very compelling side missions, which shows how deep a world has been crafted and the probable sheer length of the game as a whole. I hope to bring you my full review of it next week. Until then, here in bullet point-form are my thoughts on the game so far...
  • The visuals, while not perfect, are brilliantly cyberpunk and techno, with really impressive colour schemes and 99% spot-on facial quality. Sometimes characters' lips seem to struggle to keep up with their individual dialogue, but it's not too noticable. The soundtrack maintains the dark, techno vibe too- always nice to have a bit of consistency!
  • It's quite something to be saying that Deus Ex provides a genuine challenge, perhaps for the first time this year. I loved Portal 2's story, gameplay and general innovation, and for those it still remains the best game I've played so far this year, but there was certainly little effort required to best most of its puzzles. Here, I've been gunned down on several occassions already for not taking the right approach. That doesn't necessarily mean I should have attempted to be stealthy, but rather I could have used hacking, social skills or other routes to reach my objectives rather than go all Call of Duty.
  • Be warned that if you're looking for a shooter along the lines of COD, Battlefiend and Medal of Honor, however, that this is nothing of the short. It's a straight RPG, with gunfights thrown in for good measure, not unlike the Fallout series. What makes this better (yes, really) than Fallout is the sense of direction ever-present whether you're on a side mission or simply exploring the city- the objective marker to the main story progression is always on your HUD to guide you.
  • Better still, there's a sense of real consequence too! In one mission, saving hostages is a secondary objective, but I realised that the room containing them was full of guards who I did not feel I was yet experienced enough at fighting with to save the hostages. So, I navigated around that room and continued to my main objective. I was later informed that they were killed by their captors, and people mentioned this to me in dialogue later on in-game, some saying I did the best I could and others scolding my inability. That's an intriguing proposition, and one I hope the game builds on over the course of the next 30 hours.
  • There's an LA Noire style discussion system, one which is actually easier to use as the characters fall into stereotypes which can be marked by your augmented brain and used to convince people to do your bidding. I helped save a hostage at one point through this by empathising with her captor, and her captor later met up with me in a side mission to thank me for his redemption.
  • In short, I'm thinking this will turn out similarly to Mass Effect. That's a very good thing, by the way! The question many fans will be wondering is of course- will this be Game of the Year? Even with a few good hours under my belt, it's far too early to tell. One thing is for sure, though: unless the quality of the gameplay and storyline decreases dramatically in later hours (seems unlikely), this will be a big contender for the award alongside Portal 2. I don't think it will turn out as 2011's Best Game, but boy, will it be a memorable one!
My full review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is coming next week.

HaloFest: Day One

Los Angeles' PAX Prime convention has played host to a special three-day Halo event this month. HaloFest is currently storming the showfloor, and in the first twenty four hours already some great announcements regarding the future of the franchise have surfaced...
  • Buying Forza Motorsport 4 this Autumn? You're in luck- though you can't drive the vehicle, the Halo 4 version of the Warthog (which fans will no doubt analyse to death) will feature in the Autovista mode of the upcoming racer, where players can use a controller or Kinect to walk around vehicles and have information presented to them by a tech specialist, a more comedic take by Jeremy Clarkson (hence the Top Gear sponsorship found throughout the package) and in this case future specs by Master Chief's AI companion Cortana!
  • Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary has been confirmed by developer 343 Industries to support stereoscopic 3D, so if you want to look at the beautifully remade HD visuals with a television that supports the tech, then you can go right ahead when this comes out November 18th.
  • IGN, the site chosen to provide exclusive coverage of HaloFest, have also released two brand new videos of Halo: Anniversary, the former providing a look at the first Terminal (exciting stuff, looks like a really fluid story of its own to add to the game) and the latter a glimpse at the level 343 Guilty Spark that switches between classic and HD visuals. It's truly stunning stuff, and makes the three months remaining between now and the game's release feel very long.


The Summer Of Film- The Good, The Great, The Average And The Ugly

The end. This year's Summer of Film has been packed with high-octane blockbuster movie releases for everyone in the family, and it's only right that now we take a look back at all that's been released and sort out the best from the worst. Since Cowboys And Aliens has recently been released and donned a particularly Western theme, I thought I'd style this feature on The Good, The Bad and the Ugly! So enjoy- I'll update this piece with wherever Rise of the Planet of the Apes fits in next week, and at the bottom you can find the various flicks I didn't get to see and the general critical reaction to them.
THE GREAT (5/5):
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS- A genuinely brilliant reboot, First Class really showed the emotive and empathetic side of the famous mutant team, and could potentially be the starting point for an amazing new series of films.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART TWO- It didn't quite live up to all of the hype (go back and watch it again- there actually seems to be very little dialogue for some characters, even Ron and Hermione!), but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 did at least provide a stunning finale for all involved, a perfect book-to-film adaptation whose only flaws came from the source content itself.
SUPER 8- It's always nice to be surprised, and Super 8 was one such revelation, proving the Best Film of 2011 so far and setting a benchmark for every sci-fi film to come. The chemistry between the kid protagonists was sublime, the build-up of tension with brief glimpses of the terrible creature a perfect throwback to the days of the Spielberg era and the plot very remniscent of classic science-fiction too. Super 8 didn't rely on constant battles or jumpy moments, nor did it rest on its laurels, and this effortless balance of drama and thrills was what made it so memorable.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES- With Super 8, this is the joint-best movie I've seen this Summer. The incredible CGI, the very moving plotline and the general attention to detail in setting up a franchise here make it one to truly remember from 2011.
THE GOOD (4-4.5/5):
THOR- Another unexpected hit, Chris Hemsworth's Thor underwent a fine character arc to send him towards The Avengers, and Natalie Portman was great as his crush on Earth. Oh, and that CGI!
THE HANGOVER: PART II- Much better than expected! Comedy sequels tend to go downhill pretty quickly, but this one managed to retain much of the charm and innovation of the original, a rare quality for a film such as this these days.
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON- Okay, a lot of the final scenes felt recycled from the first film, and yes, the acting/script were no less cheesy than they had been previously, but the typically sublime effects, the sense of foreboding and brilliant soundtrack kept Dark of the Moon from being your average summer war film. Which is a good thing, by the way.
THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE- A late, but still neat surprise, The Inbetweeners Movie was just what fans should have expected the great British comedy TV series to become on the big screen, a crude but hilarious romp abroad unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon!
THE AVERAGE (3-3.5/5):
FAST FIVE- Overblown, unrealistic, yet with an overriding sense of fun and vigour, Fast Five wasn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination, breathing new life into the franchise. However, it wasn't that good either, lacking any emotional heart or interesting setpieces to boast about.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER- What should have been a heartfelt and uplifting rise to power for Steve Rogers turned out to be an irksomely patriotic romp whose conclusion left a lot to be desired, not least because it means Cap can't return to the excellently done WW2 setting.
COWBOYS & ALIENS- The mix that never should have happened? It wasn't perhaps that bad, but it's a shame that so little time was spent on the marvellously acted Western sequences in favour of good old (or in this case bad old) sci-fi action.
THE UGLY (2-2.5/5):
PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES- I can't get over how different this one felt from the other three great films, and was sadenned to see Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush having to all but recycle catchphrases to keep things 'interesting' (which failed, anyway!).
GREEN LANTERN- But above all, this was the worst film I've seen this Summer. Green Lantern was so dull, it made Spider-Man 3 seem like Avatar in terms of storytelling, acting and effects. Please, let's move past this terrible DC effort and put more work into The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel!
BRIDESMAIDS- Apparently a very competent comedy on a par with The Hangover. For obvious reasons, as a guy I gave this one a miss.
CARS 2 & KUNG FU PANDA 2- Two animated sequels which weren't too badly recieved, expect reviews of them both around Christmas time.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN- From what I've heard, this was pretty much your average hack-and-slash, gore-filled romp, that doesn't hold anything over the likes of 300.
SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD- I was initially somewhat interested to see this one, until the zero, one and two star reviews came flooding in about its 4D 'Aromascope' (i.e. scratch-and-sniff cards) being used up within 45 minutes of the film starting and that people began to leave the cinema it was so bad. I'll take a look at this via a rental service later this year, but don't expect the next Titanic if you go to see this one...

Torchwood: Episode 5, 6, 7 Reviews

So, the story of Torchwood barrels on, and has done so at quite a pace since Episode 4. Now, we know the true meaning and ramifications of the various Categories, the name of the series' alien villains and the man behind the miracle, as well as Jack's history with him. Episodes 8-10 should prove a killer round off to an exceptional, if not exceptionally paced, season, but before that here's what I thought of the most recent instalments...
EPISODE 5- THE CATEGORIES OF LIFE (5/5): Filled with suspense, The Categories of Life took us on a very dark ride into the concentration camps being disguised as medical facilities (the parallels with the Third Reich are inevitably unmistakable). It was nice to see Gwen's dad make a return to the scene, and the acting as a whole from all involved (Arlene Tur was brilliant throughout as Dr Juarez). The real reason for the score is the shocking twist of Vera's death and the camps' true purpose, which really seemed to have taken the series in a completely unexpected direction, something I hope the final episodes can deliver on. Brilliant viewing.
EPISODE 6- THE MIDDLE MEN (4/5): Not quite as memorable, this one had the job of tying off the loose ends of the concentration camp two-parter, with Vera's killer on the loose and Esther and Rex having the longwinded job of getting revenge. These scenes were as memorable as they were gritty, with Alexa Havins giving her performance of the series when Esther 'kills' her attacker, but aside from those and Jack's great scene convincing Janet to take him to her lover, there wasn't much that matched Episode 5 here. It didn't help that the ending involving Gwen's lenses felt a little rushed, although at least that once again set us off on an intriguing new journey...
EPISODE 7- IMMORTAL SINS (2.5/5): Sadly, this one is easily my least favourite episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day so far. The trailer promised us a fast-paced, action-packed look at the origins of the Miracle, and critics seem to be dubbing this the best the show has given us, but for me too much time was spent developing Jack and Angelo's relationship rather than focusing on the mission at hand. Nice it was to get references to the old Torchwood, the Doctor and his companion and even the Trickster's Brigade, and additionally harrowing as it was to see Jack brutally slaughtered every time he awoke (nearly as gruesome a thought as his imprisonment in a block of concrete last series) those couldn't make up for CGI that would have looked naff in Star Wars, a lack of any real pace and ultimately lacklustre chemistry between John Barrowman and Daniele Favelli. I'm excited to see just what Angelo has been up to and who the Families are, but it's a shame that with a little bit less time spent in flashback, and a little more in modern day focusing on the Miracle, we really could have been on to a winner. This has been the only Jane Epenson-penned episode so far I haven't greatly enjoyed, not so much because of the script, more the overused past setting. Here's hoping we stick firmly in the present day for the remainder of Miracle Day...

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Cowboys And Aliens Review (3.5/5)

Cowboys And Aliens is a strange one: much of the film's appeal comes from its titular throwback to the Wild West flicks of yore, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and all that, but as soon as those pesky extraterresterials get involved, it struggles to know which genre it would rather be a part of, and comes off a little worse for its uncertainty. Don't get me wrong, it's not the cast who I have a problem with here- Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde all give it their all throughout, working well both in the typical Western scenes and in the confrontations with CGI aliens (although it is very obvious that the antagonists aren't actually on set). No, it's that the juxtaposition of two genres becomes blindingly noticable, with the screenplay artists seeming eager to remind us every five or ten minutes that this isn't a finely crafted Western with deep character drama or human setpieces, but instead an overly long, shallow romp. How do they do this? Why, by bringing back the spaceships, of course! Just as we begin to feel we know the protagonists a little better, or feel genuine empathy for the bartender who has lost his wife, the Indian slave trying to prove himself to Ford's arrogant Colonel or any of the other well-scripted 'cowboys', the script feels the need to spruce things up a little bit (when they don't need sprucing up) via a full-blown assault either by one of the creatures or their peculiar vessels, neither of which impress compared to Avatar or Tron: Legacy at any point in their regular appearances. I did, however, enjoy Cowboys And Aliens, which may not seem to be reflected in the tone of the review so far, but that's only because there's so much untapped potential, perhaps wasted by the third word in its title, and I fail to see how the opportunity to get such screen legends back together on-screen for a fully blown, unadapted Western will ever arise again. If it does, I'll be first in line, and the score would undoubtedly be considerably higher if the variety of great, faithful desert scenes on offer here are anything to go by. Since that isn't going to happen, though, we're left with a film which shines in several places, yet is held back from any kind of greatness by the offworld invaders chucked in to sell tickets as a predictable, popcorn summer blockbuster. By all means go and see this if you're a fan of Westerns or sci-fi, but the vast helping of the other genre on both sides may ultimately hamper your overall enjoyment.

Sonic CD Set To Be Re-Released

Fans of Sonic's retro side-scrolling days will be pleased to hear that Sonic The Hedgehog CD is getting a wide-screen refit for release on handhelds and console later this year. First released in 1996, the title saw SEGA's iconic hedgehog face off against a metal incarnation of himself in thrilling courses from the past, present and future of our world. SEGA hasn't revealed anything about the remake (of sorts), but we do know it'll be coming to iPhones, Android mobiles, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network this Autumn, with acheivements for the latter two platforms.

Nintendo, Warner Bros Announce GAMEFest Line-Up

With each passing day, the prospect of all the games coming to the big UK convention GAMEFest becomes that much more exciting, and the anticipation can heighten once more today as Nintendo and Warner Bros Games reveal which titles they'll be bringing to the Birmingham NEC next month. Nintendo will be showcasing their highly anticipated final Wii fantasy game The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, along with 3DS efforts Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D for the duration of the three-day event. Meanwhile, Warner Bros are bringing along Happy Feet Two: The Game, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (hurrah!), The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (definitely should be an interesting one) and (drum roll.....) Batman: Arkham City, my most anticipated game of the year! So, to recap, here's every title that's been announced for GAMEFest so far:
MICROSOFT- Gears of War 3
SONY- Resistance 3; Uncharted 3
NINTENDO- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; Super Mario 3D Land; Mario Kart 7; MGS 3D; Kid Icarus Uprising
ACTIVISION- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
EA- Battlefield 3; Need for Speed: The Run; FIFA 12; Mass Effect 3
THQ- Saint's Row: The Third; WWE 12; UDraw Games Tablet
DISNEY- Disney Universe
BANDAI NAMCO- Dark Souls; Ace Combat: Assault Horizon; Ridge Racer: Unbounded; Ben 10: Galactic Racing; Inversion
UBISOFT- Rayman: Origins; Assassin's Creed: Revelations; Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Driver: San Francisco, Just Dance 3, Your Shape: Fitness Evovled 2012, The Adventures of Tintin
SEGA- Mario & Sonic At The London 2012 Olympic Games; Sonic Generations; The House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut; Rise of Nightmares
CAPCOM- Street Fighter X Tekken; Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City; Dragon's Dogma; Dead Rising 2: Off The Record
KONAMI- Pro Evolution Soccer 2012; Metal Gear Solid HD Collection; Silent Hill: Downpour
WARNER BROS- Batman: Arkham City; LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7; Happy Feet Two: The Game; The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
For my world exclusive coverage of just about everything on the list, keep an eye on the blog throughout September!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler Preview

It's time- it's back! Three months back, we witnessed the death of the Doctor, the emergence and supposed defeat of the Silence, and the discovery that River Song is Amy and Rory's daughter Melody Pond. But what does all this mean for the story at large? Here's just about everything to watch out for this Saturday in Let's Kill Hitler...
LET'S KILL HITLER- I thought it was best to deal with the rather controversial title first. Through a series of unlikely events involving time-travel, crop circles and offices, the Doctor and the Ponds find themselves reunited in 1930s Berlin, and hence find the leader of the Third Reich. What all the killing in the name is about I don't know, but we're going to meet mysterious robots which fix parts of time which are going wrong, so perhaps a new assassination attempt is coming for Hitler? Don't worry, though- there's no positivity with regards to the character, Steven Moffat says, he'll instead be portrayed comically and taken the mick out of. Oh yes, and apparently Rory gets to punch him!
RIVER SONG/MELODY POND- This episode is going to be heavy on new information based aroudn River: Matt Smith has said Alex Kingston gives her best performance yet as River, and rumour has it the new girl depicted as flying on the TARDIS in Ep 8 is in fact a younger, teen version of Melody. How this works, I don't understand, considering a child Melody escaped from her astronaut suit in the 1960s, but it might explain the robots coming back to deal with time errors...
THE DOCTOR'S DEATH- Though you may not have noticed it, through fooling Amy that he was the Flesh Doctor in The Almost People, the Doctor managed to discover that in 200 years he invites Amy, Rory and River to see him gunned down by Lake Silencio. The sense of foreboding that comes with the knowledge of his impending demise is sure to hang over him in the remaining episodes, so expect that to be picked up here.
ANSWERS & QUESTIONS- Want answers to everything established in this season's arc? Tough luck, but Steven Moffat did promise that some more things will be revealed about River definitely, and elements of the arc will be expanded upon and/or resolved. But of course, when the Moff gives us answers, he raises just as many questions, so expect even more layers to add to the intricate story arc this week...
Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler airs this Saturday at 7.10pm on BBC One.

Bethesda Announce GAMEFest Titles

We've already got Gears of War 3, Resistance 3, Uncharted 3, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3, Saint's Row: The Third (yep, games with the '3' numeral in the title are popular now!), Need for Speed: The Run, WWE12, FIFA 12, Disney Universe, Ridge Racer: Unbounded, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Inversion, Rayman: Origins, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, FarCry 3, Driver: San Francisco, Sonic Generations, Rise of Nightmares, Street Fighter X Tekken and Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection confirmed to be on show at GAMEFest, a huge line-up by anyone's standards, but we're promised even more highly anticipated 2011/12 games are to be announced (and shown as surprises), and that all starts with publisher and developer Bethesda Studios revealing their roster for the show. Bethesda will be debuting their newly announced Prey 2, epic shooter RAGE and huge RPG The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim at GAMEFest, the latter sure to provide hardcore thrills for RPG fans everywhere in Britain. You can catch my world exclusive coverage of the event when it arrives on the 16th-18th of September.

Kinect Star Wars Delayed To 2012

Those of you hoping to put Kinect Star Wars on their Christmas lists, possibly along with the themed 360 and Kinect bundle, will probably be disappointed to hear that the upcoming game has been pushed back to 2012. Microsoft broke the news via the Official Xbox Magazine website today: "Microsoft and Lucasarts have elected to move the launch of Kinect Star Wars beyond holiday 2011 to ensure the full potential of this title is realised. This move applies both to the Kinect Star Wars stand-alone game and the Limited Edition Console. We will communicate additional timing information at a later date." There were complaints going around the games press from journalists in the midst of the game's showing at E3 that there was significant lag and awkward game design, so perhaps reaching the title's full potential means taking it back to the drawing board. It'll be a shame to not see a new Star Wars title on the horizon for the winter season, then (unless of course The Old Republic makes it to stores), but adding the title to the 2012 roster just amplifies the amount of major hitters on the way in the coming twelve months! So look out for Kinect Star Wars and the bundle next year.

New Doctor Who Mini-Episode Revealed

We're just two days away from the beginning of a new run for Doctor Who, spanning six thrilling new adventures in time and space...well, seven, actually! Earlier this year, a competition called Script To Screen was run in British primary schools to see which class group could come up with the best story featuring the Doctor, an enemy from the past, the TARDIS interior and a new human character. The winners were Oakley CE Junior School, who then saw the scene they wrote brought to life by Steven Moffat, the Confidential team and Matt Smith himself! Now, we're going to see the new mini-episode, Death Is The Only Answer, on our screens shortly after the season finale. Episode 13, The Wedding Of River Song, airs at around 7pm on October 1st, and you can then catch this special bonus adventure on the week's edition of Doctor Who Confidential, which begins transmission shortly after Who concludes. Matt Smith called Oakley Junior School's script "brilliant", and hinted that we meet a new historical figure in the episode and witness the return of the fez (sure to please fans everywhere)! Doctor Who returns this Saturday.

Halo: Ghosts, Cole, Harvest Book Reviews

In the last few years, Tor Books have released three Halo video game tie-in novels, and having just read the second trilogy in the ongoing series of standalone publications I thought I'd give a verdict on each.
GHOSTS OF ONYX (4/5)- Easily the best of the three, this one takes place inbetween the first and second games in the franchise, focusing on a SPARTAN-II who attempts to head an army of new SPARTANS as they're assigned to dangerous suicide missions. Soon enough, the SPARTAN-IIIs find their homeworld of Onyx coming to life when Master Chief destroys the first Halo ring, and the Covenant and United Nations Space Command race to find the secret of the Forerunner ruins lying underneath the planet's surface. It's a really interesting sci-fi adventure, tying together the threads of the game trilogy well, and even though it's hardly accessible to newcomers for the series, none of the books are so it would be unfair to criticise it for that. The only part of the storyline that lets it down is the predictable ending, not to mention that there's little sense of closure, but overall this is one of the strongest Halo tie-ins so far.
CONTACT HARVEST (2/5)- Sadly, I cannot say the same for this prequel, a lacklustre look at what Avery Johnson was doing before the events of the first game, and additionally how the human race first came into conflict with the Covenant. Contact Harvest is an example of an author taking a line of dialogue used to provide context to the game universe and turning it into an entire side story. Quite honestly, major lengths of the book seem to drag and it really feels as if Joseph Staten would have been better off crafting his own story similar to Ghosts of Onyx rather than be limited by the confines of an established tale (something Halo: Reach seemed to suffer from too).
THE COLE PROTOCOL (1/5)- Cole Protocol takes the needless adapting one step further, with the title proving rather irrelevant to the main plot of SPARTAN Grey Team's battle to tackle a poriton of the UNSC who have gone rogue with data that could lead the Covenant to Earth. Veterans of the series lore may enjoy the furthering of the Halo back-story here, but as a reader this is a wholly tedious and unenjoyable novel to try and plough through.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Inbetweeners Movie Review (4/5)

In 2009, an at first little-known comedy called The Hangover (5/5) hit the box office. Soon enough, we were taken by storm as its effortless combination of wit, charm and outrageous humour earnt it a place in comedy fans' hearts across the world. But a problem of sorts arose from this. When more comedies later arrived on the scene, disguised from their mediocrity by the use of big name stars, people were no longer willing to simply accept them as the best we'd ever get, because they could compare them to the true masterpiece that Zach Galifinakas and co gave us two years back, and rate them highly or lowly as a result. That, combined with the fact that The Hangover: Part II (4.5/5) still has managed to retain much of the original's success, leaves The Inbetweeners Movie in an uncomfortable position of immense pressure. Thank goodness, then, that the film easily shrugs off the qualms and worries of the viewer that it will be predictable, providing a huge array of great gags sure to have the audience in hysterics on several occassions. Admittedly, some of the scenes containing these moments of comedy greatness will also often include moments which are genuinely cringeworthy, threatening to ruin the golden script and/or the superb portrayals of the main four protagonists, but those confrontations never totally override the overwhelming sense of fun and innovation present throughout. The set-up is simple: Jay, Will, Simon and Neil have just left sixth form, and decide to take a leisurely holiday in Greece, looking for sex along the way, before they part ways and venture off to university. The Inbetweeners Movie never dares to take us beyond the confines of its somewhat limited premise, and that inevitably places it behind the likes of the  Hangover flicks in terms of comedy quality, yet in some ways it's its finest attributes, as it makes some of the 'setpieces' feel unexpected and daring deviations from the main course, few and far between as they are. I can't really say too much about the movie without spoiling its best moments, but sufficed to say that the trailers have given very little away in terms of jokes, and you'd be best to go in with none of the surprises spoilt so as to get the full hilarious potential out of it. I said when examining August's releases that it would be full of sleeper hits, and like Super 8 this is another such example of these types of release, a nice way to bring the Summer of Film to a close, an innocent yet oft hilarious British comedy that proves we here in the UK can do great cinema. One or two of the lads' storyline twists do linger on the cliched side, and if the show's type of humour isn't your sort of thing (very crude stuff, as a newcomer to the series I would say, but I found it totally accessible and very funny) then this might feel like two hours of repetition and tedium, however from my point of view those possibilities seem pretty unlikely to hamper your enjoyment of this well-meaning, frequently excellent romp. There's huge potential for a sequel here- Film4 and E4, get to work!

Aliens: Colonial Marines Trailer Arrives

Aliens: Colonial Marines is fast becoming one of my most anticipated video games of 2012 (more on all of those later on this year!), so any new glimpse at actual gameplay has been a welcome prospect recently with only a CGI trailer to ponder at. Now, we've got a full two-minute preview of what's to come, and are promised a complete gameplay demo courtersy of Gamespot this Friday. So keep your eye on that particular games website for all the exciting details on when we'll be seeing more of this one...Colonial Marines is out next Spring!

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode 2 For 2012

What with Sonic Generations seeming to be SEGA's prime focus with regards to their iconic Sonic character in his 25th Anniversary year, fans of downloadable video games may have recently wondered what has become of Sonic The Hedgehog 4, the XBLA and PSN title that opened last year with the relatively well-recieved Episode I. Sonic Team's Tashiki Ishigura said of Episode II: "This year, 2011, is the anniversary year, so we're focusing on Sonic Generations. But moving forward to 2012, Sonic will still be going, so I hope we can provide Episode II then." Keep checking On-Screen for the all the latest on both Generations and Sonic 4!

New MGS3 HD Footage Arrives

Fans of the Metal Gear Solid franchise are eagerly anticipating the upcoming high-definition remakes of three of the series' finest entries- Sons of Liberty, Snake Eater and Peace Walker- so should be glad to see that the first video footage of the third game, MGS 3: Snake Eater has surfaced online. The walkthrough of an early level was first debuted at Gamescom, and is voiced by Assistant Producer Sean Eyestone. Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection is out on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on November 30th.

New Doctor Who Details- Part 2

In an interview with Digital Spy, Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith has revealed some new hints at what to expect in the weeks ahead...
ON LET'S KILL HITLER- "It starts with a young Amy and Rory, and eventually the Doctor arrives and they're older at that point. Then we're in 40s Germany and we stumble across River Song. The Tesselacta adds the dynamic of the monster. It's great Doctor Who."
ON NIGHT TERRORS- "We find ourselves trapped in a dollhouse, which is a really clever idea."
ON THE GIRL WHO WAITED- "Karen gives her finest performance of the episodes so far- she's spellbindingly good." The Moff added: "The Doctor has been in Amy and Rory's life for a long time now- far longer than he ever intended. What if something were to go wrong?"
ON THE GOD COMPLEX- "David Walliams, there's a minatour, it's a mad Toby Whithouse story. It feels like The Shining!"
ON CLOSING TIME- "We've got James Corden back on fine form again. I want to get him back again next year because I love working with him and I think Craig is a great character for the Doctor to play off!" Steven adds: "Events have moved on in Craig's life when the Doctor turns up on his doorstep for a second time; there's a terrible alien threat, of course, but never mind that- there's a BABY!"
ON THE WEDDING OF RIVER SONG- "Episode 13 is kind of Steven being totally brilliant and mad and telling the story like a feature film sprawling through time." The Moff cryptically tells us "The Doctor goes to his certain death- and it doesn't work out as well as he expected..." and he leaves us with two lines of dialogue from the episode itself: "I don't want to marry you." "I don't want to murder you."
ON THIS HALF BEING THE END FOR THE PONDS- "No, I don't think it'll be the end. I think they'll be back." I'd wager with Karen and Arthur confirming their involvement in Series Seven, cameos similar to those Martha made in the season after his departure might be in store, or perhaps they'll return for the entire season...Who knows?
Doctor Who returns on Saturday on BBC One at 7.10pm.

New Doctor Who Details- Part 1

As fans will doubtless know, Doctor Who returns this week in a spectacular opening episode that begins a new run of six stories, Let's Kill Hitler. Speculation is rife as to what exciting revelations are coming in Season Six Part Two, as well as the immediate future of the sci-fi programme after the 2011 Christmas Special. Below, I've collected a collation of interview quotes from executive producer Steven Moffat which shed some light on the recent speculation and rumours...
ON A POSSIBLE REDUCED SERIES 7- "Absolute nonsense. First of all, we are airing in 2012. The only thing that's happening is that we're moving a bit later...There's lots of reasons for that that will become clear quite soon...You're not going to reduce a show like this. The opposite is going to happen, in fact." Most notably, I would imagine, is that with the 50th Anniversary coming in 2013 Steven and the crew will want to keep Who fresh in our minds throughout that year, perhaps by airing one half of Series Seven in Autumn 2012 and the other in Spring 2013, and then even perhaps another series later in the celebratory festivities. One thing's for sure- when the show has been 'off air', the production team have used events like Doctor Who Live to make the wait seem easier, so you can be sure there'll be things to entice us in the Spring and Summer of next year while Series Seven is shooting.
ON WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THIS HALF- "It's an absolute cracker. Answers will be given. We're not Lost. You will know what's really going on on that beach, and the truth about River Song, which you don't know yet. It's pretty much answer, answer, answer in a way...but by the end of Episode 13, new things will have begun...The great thing about River Song is that everytime you get an answer, it makes you ask another question..."
ON THE SCALE OF THE PLOT ARCS- "This is the most arc-intensive we've ever been and I'm throwing the lever the other way next year." So perhaps Series Seven will be more similar to Series Five, with an underlying arc that gradually builds to the finale rather than dominating the season? Admittedly, some stories like The Curse of the Black Spot and the Flesh two-parter seemed to suffer from shoehorning in elements of the arc, but hopefully with six singular stories coming up not too much harm will have been caused to Series Six's quality as a whole.